DFER NEWS: Adam Goldfarb, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, lands COO post at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

Having become a great weight around Democrat Dannel Malloy’s desire to serve a second term as Connecticut’s governor, in the run-up to Connecticut’s 2014 gubernatorial election, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, announced that he was leaving his post in search of new opportunities.  (See Wait, What? post –Commissioner Pryor and entourage are the biggest threat to Malloy’s Re-election…)

Pryor quickly announced that he was headed east to become Commerce Secretary for his friend, the newly elected Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo.  Pryor, Raimondo and her husband, hedgefund executive Andy Moffit, all attended Yale together.  Moffitt was roommates with Cory Booker and Pryor ended up serving as Booker’s economic adviser for five years until joining the Malloy administration as Commissioner of Education in 2011.

While at Yale, Pryor co-founded Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that owns and operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As Governor Malloy’s point person on education, Pryor led the effort to undermine Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

It was Governor Malloy, with the help of Pryor and a series of no-bid contracts with out-of-state corporate education reform industry consultants, which produced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill of any Democratic governor in the country.

In addition to the millions of dollars that Commissioner Pryor wasted on out-of-state consultants and his successful effort to divert hundreds of millions in scarce taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s charter school industry, another one of Pryor’s controversial actions was to hire his close personal friend and former Newark aide, Adam Goldfarb, to serve as his chief of staff.  (See Wait, What? post –IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education.)

In order to get around the State of Connecticut’s hiring rules, Pryor actually hired Goldfarb under one job classification and then immediately bumped up his salary and made him chief of staff.

Goldfarb’s credentials?

Like Pryor, Goldfarb went to Yale.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb worked on economic development issues in Newark for then mayor Cory Booker.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb had no real public education experience.

And like Pryor, Goldfarb was a big fan of charter schools despite their unwillingness to provide equal educational opportunities to students who require special educational services, those who aren’t proficient in the English Language or those who fail to adhere to the abusive and degrading harsh disciplinary policies that are the staple of charter school operations.

In Goldfarb’s case, he has served as the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of People’s Prep Charter School in New Jersey since the privately owned, but publicly funded charter school opened. (See Wait, What? post – What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?)

While Goldfarb’s boss, Stefan Pryor, has spent the last year hiring even more out-of-state consultants and plunging Rhode Island’s governor into one controversy after another (Check back soon for more about that), Goldfarb has been treading water as a consultant for Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies and America Achieves project.

However, although no official announcement has yet been made, it appears that Adam Goldfarb has recently landed the job of Chief Operating Officer for the education reform and charter school advocacy group known as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

DFER is the corporate and elite funded pro-education entity that serves as the political wing of Education Reform Now and its sister organization, Education Reform Now Advocacy.

DFER is used as a political action committee and a “dark-money” bundling group that has poured millions of dollars into political campaigns on behalf of candidates who support the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public educations through the massive expansion of charter schools.

A darling of the education reform industry, DFER’s new National President, Shavar Jeffries, joined DFER after a stunning defeat against Newark councilman and community activist, Ras Baraka, for mayor of Newark when Booker became a United States Senator.

Jeffries has now brought in Adam Goldfarb to so serve as DFER’s Chief Operating Officer.

As for DFER, The Center for Media & Democracy’s Executive Director, Lisa Graves, recently published a investigative piece entitled, How DFER Leaders Channel Out-of-State Dark Money, in which she wrote;

DFER is actually the more well known PAC arm of Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4) social welfare group. Their acronym not only sounds like the word “earn,” but also it has the backing of some really huge earners.

DFER co-founder (and founder of the T2 Partners hedge fund) Whitney Tilson explained the hedge funders interest in education noting that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

The Board of Directors for ERN consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital, Cubist Systematic Strategies, and Sanford C. Bernstein.

As the New York Times reported: DFER’s supporters have included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.”

However, ERN and ERNA do not disclose who its major donors are and how much those big donors give to fund its operations and ambitions.

It is known, though, that FOX‘s Rupert Murdoch gave at least $1 million to ERN. Murdoch has expressed his desire to get in on education “reforms,” stating “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”

The most recent federal tax filings of ERN/ERNA show that it had more than $12 million available to push education reform ($7.4 million for ERN and $5 million for ERNA) in 2013. Its non-profit filings from the most recent major election year, the 2014 mid-terms, or last year are not available.

What is known from the 2013 is filings is that, in that year, ERNA disclosed that it spent $1.7 million in political expenditures, nearly all of which went to DFER. These funds were used for expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians but that were “independent” and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.

ERN/ERNA’s leader Joe Williams has been paid a for-profit like salary as its executive, with $398,500 in total annual compensation in 2013. He’s also listed as “Executive Director Emeritus” for DFER and on DFER’s board. Williams stepped down from his staff position at DFER in 2015 and also became a director at the Walton Education Coalition that year. That’s Walton as in Walmart’s Walton family.

Because nonprofits like ERN/ERNA do not have to disclose their major donors to the public, even when ERNA is active in supporting electoral activities the public is left in the dark about which hedge funder is actually helping to fund state and local ads and mailers during the election.

Even though privately held corporations and hedge funders do not have to disclose their donations to operations like ERN/ERNA, a CEO’s charitable foundations does have to disclose to whom they give grants.

That’s how it is known that the Walton family, of Walmart fame or infamy, has backed such efforts. In 2011, for example, ERN/ERNA received $1.1 million from the Walton Family Foundation. The total amount from all such CEO-controlled foundations given to ERN/ERNA to date is not known.

As Matthew Fleischer noted in the Frying Pan News (reprinted by the Huffington Post) that hedge funder Tilson has followed the Waltons’ lead: “in a 2010 documentary, A Right Denied, Tilson suggested that DFER was created because of Walmart patriarch John Walton’s support of vouchers and “school choice.'”

It has been investigative journalists who have helped expose the billionaire network behind ERN/ERNA/DFER, despite the opacity on the surface, as noted by George Joseph in the Nation:

“[A]ccording to Steven Brill in his book Class Warfare, around this time [in 2010] the hedge-fund alliance for education reform really began to take off. That April, for instance, Education Reform Now’s Joe Williams and Bradley Tusk schmoozed over drinks with Paul Tudor Jones II and other hedge-fund billionaires at Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone’s Five Avenue apartment, where they planned a successful campaign to secretly spend millions through a 501(c)(4) political action fund and win the charter cap increase [in New York]. As with Families for Excellent Schools’ mostly secret financing today, Brill notes that Education Reform Now’s donations never became public, and that in May a room full of eager billionaires was able to push the legislature to authorize increased charter-school expansion.”

(The Nation‘s exposé on ERN/ERNA/DFER in New York includes emails and a slide deck about the billionaires and foundations behind such efforts that were leaked to the magazine.)

Despite or perhaps because of this reality, the DFER arm in a state where ads are run merely discloses to the state authority that it received contributions from ERNA, not the hedge funders.

So, the ERN/ERNA/DFER operation is like a shell game when it comes to the public being able to pierce through the layers of nonprofits to find the name of a particular billionaire or uber-rich hedge funder whose money is propping up a particular electoral candidate being backed by DFER.

Similarly, DFER in the states has been known to partner with other groups that have similarly murky or occluded funding sources.

Most recently, DFER and its related entities have been particularly involved in campaigns and political activities aimed at supporting politicians committed to privatizing public education and promoting charter schools in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York and in other targeted states and cities.

Kelly Donnelly to become Chief of Staff for Connecticut Department of Education

The key role of Chief of Staff for Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education will go to Kelly Donnelly who was brought in from New Jersey in December 2012 to serves as former Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor’s PR person.

Although Donnelly has no work experience in public education and her only education policy experience is as the agency’s communications person, multiple sources confirm that Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzel will by-pass numerous qualified professional staff to hand the Chief of Staff duties to Donnelly.

Donnelly will be replacing Adam Goldfarb, who resigned earlier this year soon after Stefan Pryor left Connecticut to become Rhode Island’s Economic Development Commissioner.

Goldfarb, a Yale Law School graduate, came with Pryor from New Jersey.  Goldfarb served as one of Pryor’s policy advisors in Newark, New Jersey and spent time as Pryor’s intern when Pryor worked for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

Goldfarb was initially brought in under the title of Executive Assistant, but then immediately was made Chief of Staff with a starting salary of $99,000, up 33 percent from what he was making as Pryor’s assistant in New Jersey.  Goldfarb finished up his duty as a Connecticut public servant earlier this year with a salary of $116,000

You can read more about Pryor and Goldfarb at Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education and What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?

Donnelly was hired as Pryor’s Communication Director with a starting salary of $82,000.  It is unclear what her salary will be as the State Department of Education’s Chief of Staff.

Prior to coming to Connecticut, most of Donnelly’s experience was with political campaigns in New Jersey and Long Island although she did spend nearly two years in 2010-2011 with 1st Light Energy Inc, where she, “Oversaw residential and commercial photovoltaic (solar system) installations for the entire scope of the project.”

Donnelly, who is from Edison, New Jersey graduated from Notre Dame in 2002 with a BA in Liberal Studies.

One of Donnelly’s most recent responsibilities was serving as the agency’s spokesperson during the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to mislead, harass and bully parents who were trying to opt their children out of the unfair and inappropriate Common Core SBAC tests.  Her quotes can be found via any search about Connecticut’s SBAC testing scheme.

Malloy’s plan to privatize public education charges forward today

(aka) Is Newark’s Great Oaks Charter School coming to Bridgeport?

At today’s State Board of Education meeting, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s appointees will vote to re-commit Connecticut to the Common Core and then vote to divert scarce public funds to new charter schools in Connecticut.

As previously reported, new charter school applications up for a vote by the State Board of Education includes,

(1) Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor School (Bridgeport),

(2) Jumoke Academy Michael Sharpe’s Booker T. Washington Academy (New Haven),

(3) The Bronx/Stamford Charter School for Excellence (Stamford) and

(4) Newark’s Great Oaks Charter School (Bridgeport).

One of the leading contenders in the effort to grab Connecticut taxpayer dollars is the Newark, New Jersey based charter school chain that proposes to open the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Yes… Newark is where Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, worked before coming to Connecticut.

Pryor’s Chief of Staff, Adam Goldfarb, also came from Newark and Goldfarb still sits on the board of directors of a New Jersey charter school company.

Initially the Great Oaks Charter School company proposed that they would be ready to open a charter school in Bridgeport in time for the 2015/2016 school year.

But in a sure sign that the fix is in, just last week, the Great Oaks Charter School quietly “amended” their application claiming they would now be ready to open this coming September.

The change appears to be part of a broader strategy by the Malloy administration to approve some charter schools for this coming year and then return after the election to approve other applications when fewer parents, teachers and public school advocates will be paying attention.

Connecticut’s Latino community should be especially concerned and insulted by what appears to be the Malloy Administration’s maneuver to give the Newark, New Jersey charter school company a school in Bridgeport.

The company’s school in Newark does not serve any English Language learners, but the application arrogantly claims that they are ready and able to serve Bridgeport’s diverse student population in which at least one in four students need English Language or bi-lingual programs.

In addition, the Great Oaks Charter School is yet another example of one of these “no-excuses” institutions where excessive discipline is used to pummel children into submission or force them to transfer back into the local public school system.

While this type of school would never be allowed to open in one of Connecticut’s suburban communities, the no-excuse model has become a favorite among urban-based charter school operators.

According to records from New Jersey, Great Oaks Charter School suspended more than one-third of its students one or more times last year.

Furthermore, while claiming that their focus will be on “college readiness,” the records from New Jersey reveal that Great Oaks ranked at the absolute bottom of the list on that goal when compared to other schools in New Jersey.

As with Steve Perry’s proposal to open a charter school in Bridgeport, the Great Oaks Charter School proposal has the strong support of Mayor Bill Finch, Governor Malloy’s key ally in Bridgeport.

Finch even submitted a letter with the Great Oaks Charter School application stating that the City of Bridgeport would pay 50% of the Great Oak’s Charter School lease costs for the first 5 years.

The cost to taxpayers for Finch’s gift to the charter school company would be $477,000.

While Finch promises another subsidy to this out-of-state charter school company, Connecticut taxpayers were required to come up with a $3.5 million “forgivable” loan to balance Bridgeport’s school budget last year and the Malloy administration has already committed to filling Bridgeport’s $3.3 million school budget shortfall this year.

As the saying goes, “you just can’t make this stuff up!”

You can read the super, amazing, fantastic, wonderful, incredible Great Oaks Charter school application here:  http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/public_hearings/great_oaks_app.pdf

SURPRISE: Malloy administration’s back room deal to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to an out-of-state charter school company is back

As Wait, What? readers have known for months, the Malloy administration has been engaged in a campaign to force the City of Hartford to turn their Clark Elementary School over to a private, out-of-state private charter school chain based in Washington D.C.

Initially Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, tried to “persuade” the City of Hartford to turn Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc. the charter school chain that Pryor co-founded.

When the parents, teachers and Clark School community fought back, the Hartford Board of Education, the majority of whom are appointed by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segar, said no.

At that point, Pryor and the Malloy administration switched to Plan B.

Plan B was to force Hartford to turn the local neighborhood school over to Friendship Charter Schools of  Washington DC through a no-bid contract process.

Once again parents, teachers and the Clark School Community fought back.

But Commissioner Stefan Pryor, along with his aides, has spent that last few weeks trying to force Hartford to give up their opposition and agree to turn their school over the private charter school company.

According to sources who attended meetings about this issue, the Pryor’s group has told parents that the only way Clark Elementary School can get significantly more funds to improve their school is to allow this backroom deal to go forward.

When some community leaders complained that the Friendship Charter School chain was being forced upon them, Commissioner Pryor’s aide, Andrew Ferguson, shot back saying, “You’ve had years to do this internally.”

Ferguson’s comment is particularly repulsive and inappropriate since the Connecticut State Department of Education is well aware of the historic underfunding of Connecticut’s schools and that there is absolutely nothing preventing Pryor from investing additional funds in Clark Elementary without making the community give up control of their neighborhood school to a private out-of-state charter school company.

While the level of arrogance emanating from the Connecticut State Department of Education is shocking, the real question is who has participated in the behind the scenes effort to undermine the teachers and parents and push forward with the deal to hand Clark Elementary over to the Washington D.C.’s Friendship Charter School chain.

To date, freedom of information requests for all communication between the Malloy administration and the corporate leadership of Friendship Charter company have gone unanswered.

Therefore, an additional request will submitted today,

The new FOI request will again be made pursuant to the  Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.

The new request is a demand that the State Department of  Education turn over all written communication, memos, documents, emails and corresponding attachments that mention “Friendship Charter” and were sent to or from Commissioner Pryor, Adam Goldfarb (Pryor’s chief of staff), Morgan Barth (Pryor School Turnaround Director) or Andrew Ferguson (Pryor and Barth’s aide assigned to the Clark School Committee).

The request covers all communication created, sent or received during the period from September 1, 2013 through today, March 28, 2014.

In addition, the State Department of Education is instructed to turn over a list of all phone calls that were made by these four individuals, along with the date, time and duration of each call.  The request covers both the office and cell phones of those four previously mentioned state employees.

If the Malloy administration were serious about transparency, honesty and fairness, these materials would be immediately turned over and shared with the Clark School community prior to any  final vote on the future of Hartford’s Clark School.

Mass Insight contract “magically extended” on its last day. Cost to taxpayers: $800,000

Mass Insight Contract “magically extended” on its last day.  Cost to taxpayers: $800,000

The cornerstone of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative is the concept of “turnaround schools” and the creation of the “Commissioner’s Network.”  Both strategies are part of Malloy’s broader effort to allow private entities to run public schools.

The task of implementing those outrageous policies rests with Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and two members of his personal staff, Adam Goldfarb (Chief of Staff) and Morgan Barth (Director of the Office of School Turnaround).

Morgan Barth is the former Achievement First employee who illegally taught and worked in Achievement First schools for six years.

Last year, as part of their ongoing effort to undermine local control and privatize public education in Connecticut, Commissioner Pryor let go or re-assigned the extremely experienced team of State Department of Education experts who had been helping towns work through the challenges of educating students in Connecticut’s largest and poorest districts.

Pryor let go the four Leaders in Residence and three superintendents, each of whom had direct experience working with administrators and teachers in urban classrooms and school districts where the majority of students face the challenges of poverty, language barriers or special education needs.

Pryor also re-assigned the State Department of Education’s experts on bullying and improving school climates, multi-cultural education and bilingual and English language learning programs.

Instead of utilizing Connecticut experts, Pryor retained an out-of-state, politically-connected company called Mass Insight for nearly $1 million. 

To service the contract with Pryor, Mass Insight sent in a handful of inexperienced, out-of-state consultants.  In the first four months of the contract, Mass Insight replaced nearly every one of these out-of-state consultants with another inexperienced, out-of-state consultant.  In some cases the consultants lasted no more than a few weeks in the job. 

But as a group, Mass Insight’s consultants, with Morgan Barth at the helm, managed to alienate superintendents, principals and local boards of education in many of Connecticut’s thirty Alliance Districts.

The contract with Mass Insight was scheduled to end on January 31, 2014.

But with no public notice and no public participation, Stefan Pryor and the State Department of Education, along with the help of Malloy’s Budget Director and Attorney General George Jepsen’s Office quietly approved an $800,000 contract extension that is said to have gone into effect on JANUARY 31, 2014.

The last-minute $800,000 contract extension will allow Stefan Pryor, Morgan Barth and Mass Insight to continue to wreak havoc on Connecticut’s poorest public schools.

Hidden from public view, Stefan Pryor requested and obtained approval from Malloy’s Budget Chief and the Office of Policy and Management to extend Mass Insight’s contract and pay the out-of-state company the extra $800,000 on January 24, 2014.

According to documents related to the matter, the Mass Insight contract extension was finalized and sent to the company on January 30, 2014.

Under state law, as a check and balance on excessive agency actions, contract extensions of this nature require a sign off from the Office of the Attorney General.   

In this case, the Mass Insight contract was apparently forwarded to the Attorney General’s office on January 31, 2014. 

While it is unclear exactly when the Attorney General’s Office acted, it did approve the contract and Commissioner Pryor and the State Department of Education reported that they planned to have the contract amendment “fully executed by the end of business January 31, 2014.”

While it is beyond insulting to see the Malloy administration dump experienced Connecticut residents so it can out-source jobs to out-of-state consultants, it is even more absurd that Commissioner Pryor would seek to extend this contract and further undermine Connecticut’s poorest school districts. 

Commissioner Pryor and entourage are the biggest threat to Malloy’s Re-election…

Considering Governor Dannel Malloy won the last gubernatorial election with less than 50% of the 1.2 million votes cast and his margin of victory was only 6,404 votes, virtually anything could cost him his re-election dreams.

But forget the Republicans and their propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory…

Forget Malloy’s tax increases that have fallen disproportionately on the middle class…

Forget the combined $3.2 billion deficit that Malloy’s budget gimmicks have created for the three years following the next election….

Forget his warped “economic development” strategy that gives multi-million dollar companies scarce public funds that should be going to preserve vital services…

With nearly 500 teachers showing up at a Fairfield County meeting last night to meet with their state legislators we are reminded, yet again, that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his entourage of high-priced, out-of-state consultants and personal assistants is the factor most likely to put an end to Malloy’s political career.

Commissioner Pryor, the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company has led Governor Malloy’s relentless effort to undermine Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public education system.

It was Governor Malloy, with the help of Pryor and a series of no-bid contracts with out-of-state corporate education reform industry consultants that introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill of any Democratic governor in the country.

And thanks to Malloy and Pryor, the Common Core freight train and the inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment testing scheme will end up costing Connecticut taxpayers tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars…while turning Connecticut’s public schools into nothing more than testing factories.

The truth be told; Every day teachers, along with more and more parents of public school students, understand that Malloy was brutally honest when he said that he didn’t mind teaching to the test, as long as the test scores go up!

Add in Malloy and Pryor’s absurd teacher evaluation system, along with Malloy’s failure to properly fund Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing school funding formula and you have a situation that could easily cost Malloy ten times the number of votes he won by in the 2010 election.

In addition to the millions that Commissioner Pryor has wasted on no-bid contracts and his ongoing effort to divert scarce taxpayer funds to his charter school agenda, the record is clear.

Pryor hired his personal friend, Adam Goldfarb under one job classification and then immediately bumped up his salary and made him chief of staff.  Goldfarb’s educational experience?  Serving on the board of directors of a New Jersey charter school.

And it was Pryor who turned over the State Department of Education’s School Turnaround Office to Morgan Barth.  This is the same Morgan Barth who worked illegally for six years as a teacher and administrator at Pryor’s Achievement First, Inc. Despite a state law requiring all teachers and administrators to hold state certification, Morgan Barth refused to go through process required to be in a Connecticut classroom or principal’s office.   What does Stefan Pryor do?  With six years of illegal teaching and administration under his belt, Pryor puts Barth in charge of the effort to undermine the teachers and schools in Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts

And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, Stefan Pryor is Steven Adamowski’s biggest supporter – Adamowski got a $225,000 no-bid contract from the Malloy administration to serve as “Special Master” of Windham and New London.  When the contract period ran out, Pryor gave Adamowski a six-figure state job without posting the position or going through the proper selection process.  And all this time, “Special Master” Adamowski is wreaking havoc with the public schools in two of Connecticut’s poorest communities.

Malloy’s popularity has been in the tank since he was elected.  There are many challenges to his re-election plans, but none more serious or significant than his the way and his Commissioner of Education have treated Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public schools.

Two key questions about Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee (From Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)

Two key questions about Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee
Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker

 

Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee is one of the most important citizen advisory groups in the state.

Connecticut State Statue 10-4 (C) states that the Connecticut State Board of Education “shall prepare every five years a five-year comprehensive plan for elementary, secondary, vocational, career and adult education. Said comprehensive plan shall include, but not be limited to, a policy statement of the State Board of Education’s long-term goals and short-term objectives, an analysis of cost implications and measurement criteria and how said board’s programs and operations relate to such goals and objectives and specific action plans, target dates and strategies and methods of implementation for achieving such goals and objectives. The State Board of Education shall establish every five years an advisory committee to assist the board in the preparation of the comprehensive plan. Members of the advisory committee shall be appointed by the State Board of Education with representation on the committee to include, but not be limited to, representatives of the Connecticut Advisory Council on Vocational and Career Education, education organizations, parent organizations, student organizations, business and industry, organized labor and appropriate state agencies.”

Two questions stand out.

When did the State Board of Education vote, as required by the law, to establish Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee? (SBE voted to set up its own Ad Hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee at its October 2, 2013 meeting)

Second, aside from a mention in a PowerPoint Presentation that Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff, Adam Goldfarb, made at the State Board of Education’s August retreat, what steps did the Commissioner or the Board of Education take to solicit suggestions about who should serve on Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee?

“Special Deal” Adamowski state job was not part of Pryor’s “Sweeping Reorganization Plan”

A primary question facing Governor Malloy and Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is how did they have the authority to create a special position for Steven Adamowski when the State Board of Education hadn’t even voted to continue Adamowski’s role as “Special Master” for the Windham and New London school systems.

In fact, the position for “Special Deal” Adamowski wasn’t even part of the State Department of Education’s organization plan.

For that we have to go back to January 18, 2012 when the Connecticut State Board of Education approved Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s reorganization plan.  Pryor’s plan was developed with the help of a team of consultants who were brought in on no-bid contracts to help Malloy and Pryor write the Governor’s new education reform bill and reorganize the department to implement the new initiative.

Connecticut’s taxpayers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for these out-of-state consultants to develop a re-organization plan for Pryor and the education reform bill for Malloy.

At the time, Commissioner Pryor said that the reorganization plan laid out “the essential groundwork for realizing reform by creating the structure and capacity” to carry out Malloy’s education reform efforts.”

According to a press release issued at the time, “The reorganization addresses Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s six principles on education reform, including: (1) Enhancing families’ access to high-quality early childhood; (2) Turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools and districts; (3) Expanding the availability of high-quality school models; (4) Removing red tape and other barriers to success; (5) Ensuring that our schools are home to the very best teachers and principals; and (6) Delivering more resources, targeted to districts with the greatest need-provided that they embrace key reforms that position our students for success.”

State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor was quoted in the official press release saying, “The Board’s support for the reorganization of the Department sets into motion a new era for education reform grounded in high expectations for every student in Connecticut’s public schools. Chief among our goals is to harness the strength to overcome deep achievement gaps in our system. This reorganization plan provides the right framework for progress.”

Commissioner Stefan Pryor added, “This reorganization plan sets the stage to accomplish the significant education reforms presented by Governor Malloy. We will position a talented team and operating structure that’s second to none, making Connecticut a national education leader once again.”

But the plan didn’t include the office of Special Master or a position for Steven Adamowski because Adamowski’s no-bid contract had already been delivered to him through the State Education Resource Center.

But now Malloy and Pryor wanted Adamowski to get a state job and apparently were hoping nobody would remember the earlier statements surrounding Pryor’s re-organization plan.

On August 8, 2013, Adam Goldfarb, Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff, wrote to Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management explaining, “The purpose of our requested increase in headcount is to successfully implement the new work required of the state by the Governor’s reforms…”

So now Pryor’s operation needed more positions to implement Malloy’s education reform initiative?

But just a few weeks earlier Pryor had let seven State Department of Education experts go.  The four Leaders in Residence and the three retired superintendents of schools, all of whom at had been successfully working with these priority school districts to enhance their local education programs were gone and Pryor replaced them with a $1 million contract with a well-connected, out-of-state company called MassInsight that proceeded to send in a series of inexperienced consultants to help Connecticut’s poorest school districts.

But now Malloy’s Chief of Staff was asking for more positions, one of which we have now learned was intended, all along, for Steven Adamowski.

Apparently the professional staff at the Office of Policy and Management was also confused by Goldfarb’s argument on Pryor’s behalf.

According to a packet of emails acquired last week, one OPM analyst wrote back to Goldfarb saying,

Ben [Barnes] forwarded me the memo from the Commissioner to Mark Ojakian [Malloy’s chief of staff] and Ben regarding the staffing plan for implementation of Governor’s reforms.  Following a meeting with Ben on it, we would ask that you provide more detail as to how this can be accomplished within the budget for FY14 and FY15.  I assume the 24 new positions outlined in the memo include the 15 that were previously requested…I believe SDE currently has twenty something vacancies, which I assume would go unfilled in order to pay these other 24 positions…

  • A new “staffing plan” needed to implement the Governor’s education reforms?
  • 24 new positions including the 15 that were previously requested?
  • But the State Department of Education already had 20 funded vacancies?
  • And all of this time, one of these positions was targeted for Steven Adamowski?

And perhaps the most stunning point of all is that none of this came before the State Board of Education for approval despite the fact that the State Board, with great fanfare, had already approved a major reorganization plan to handle Malloy’s education reforms?

Is there anyone in charge of anything at the State Department of Education?

The new state budget that was approved by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Malloy took effect on July 1, 2013…That budget is the legal framework for the expenditure of all taxpayer funds.

And here, thirty days later, Commissioner Pryor’s office is asking for an entirely new staffing plan for Malloy’s education reform bill…

And none of these important policy issues are reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education —- the entity which is legally mandated to oversee the operation of the State Department of Education?

And we wonder why the people of Connecticut have lost faith in their government.

What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?

Add one more item to the list of real or perceived conflicts of interest surrounding Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts.

It turns out that in addition to serving as Chief of Staff for Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Adam Goldfarb has been serving as Vice President of the People’s Preparatory Charter School Board of Directors in Newark, New Jersey.  Goldfarb also served as an intern for Steven Pryor when Pryor served as the Director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

Adam Goldfarb was Pryor’s first hire when Malloy’s new Commissioner arrived in Connecticut.

Despite purportedly making $75,000 as a senior policy advisory for Pryor at Newark’s Brick City Development Corporation, Pryor asked Malloy’s Chief of Staff if he could hire Goldfarb as his Executive Assistant at a rate of $99,000 a year plus benefits.

That was just fine with Malloy’s office.

And soon, Goldfarb’s title was changed to Chief of Staff.

And while Connecticut deals with the destructive ramifications of inadequate funding for its schools, Goldfarb’s salary is now up to $106,000 plus those valuable benefits.

But perhaps the most interesting piece of news is that while serving as the Chief of Staff for the Connecticut Department of Education, Goldfarb has been serving as an officer for a charter school in Newark, New Jersey.

People’s Preparatory Charter School was granted a charter by the New Jersey Department of Education in July 2011. The school started with 95 ninth graders in the fall of 2011 and is scheduled to reach its capacity of 380 students in 2014.  It is co-located with two other schools in Newark.

According to documents filed with the State of New Jersey, Goldfarb has been with the charter school from the beginning and his term as a member of the People’s Preparatory Charter School Board runs through June 2013.

Of course, we have a Commissioner who co-founded Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company and only resigned his position on their Board to become Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.  In his capacity as Commissioner he is overseeing policies that are pushing millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to his former company.

More recently we’ve seen Governor Malloy nominate Andrea Comer, a high-ranking official from FUSE/Jumoke, Inc., another charter school management company, to the State Board of Education.  FUSE/Jumoke, Inc. is also benefiting from millions in taxpayer funds.

And now we learn that even Pryor’s Chief of Staff is serving on a charter school board of directors.

It makes one wonder…

The list of real and perceived conflicts of interest associated with Commissioner Pryor and the Malloy Administration seem to grow on a daily basis.  More to come, but we’ll leave the list as is for now…