Corporate Education Reform Industry group starts radio campaign in support of new charter schools

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Surprise, surprise… An out-of-State charter school advocacy group has started an advertising campaign to support the Malloy administration’s decision to give Steve Perry his own privately run, but taxpayer funded, charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a reports from the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc., a charter school advocacy group based in New York, has begun a Connecticut radio advertising campaign in support of the Malloy administration’s decision to approve two new charter schools in Bridgeport.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is running the radio spots to defend Commissioner Stefan Pryor and State Board of Education’s underhanded effort to approve the proposed charter schools.  One of the charter schools will be run by the out-of-state Great Oaks charter school chain while the other is Steve Perry’s Capitol Preparatory Harbor school.

The advocacy and lobbying group is also behind the multi-million dollar advertising campaign to undermine New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to make New York City’s public schools a high priority compared to the Bloomberg administration’s approach that diverted tens of millions in public resources away from the public schools and to the city’s privately run charter schools. In New York, the Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. campaign pushed to allow privately run charter schools virtually unlimited and free access to public school space.    

The group’s New York advertising campaign is designed to help New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Like Malloy, Cuomo has received more than $100,000 in campaign donations from charter-school supporters in recent months.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. was formed by corporate education reform industry allies in 2011 and has recently expanded into Connecticut. Four of the organization’s five founding board members are Wall Street hedge fund executives.  The group also shares space in New York City with the New York chapter of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Inc.

As one would expect, the corporate education reform industry has been dumping millions of dollars into Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.

Among its biggest donors is the Walton Family Foundation (the Wal-Mart Family’s Foundation) which has given the charter school group more than $700,000 in start-up funds.  The organization has also received at least $200,000 from the Eli Broad Foundation during that same period.

Here in Connecticut, the Wal-Mart Political Action Committee gave Governor Malloy’s political operation a check for $5,000 and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad chipped in another $8,000 for Malloy.  

One of the other foundations that have given Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is none other than the Ray Dalio Family Foundation.

As Forbes Magazine explains, Ray Dalio is the “king of the rich hedge fund industry.”  Forbes adds that Dalio, “lords over the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, with about $150 billion in assets.”

Ray Dalio is the individual who was paid $2.3 billion last year.

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates is the company that Governor Dan Malloy rewarded with more than $120 million in Connecticut taxpayer funded tax breaks in return for moving Bridgewater’s “world headquarters” from Westport to Stamford.

In addition to giving money to the charter school advocacy group now running advertisements in Connecticut, Dalio’s foundation is also a major donor to Teach for America.

For public school teachers, parents and advocates it is becoming even clear is that with the 2014 gubernatorial election less than seven months away, Dannel “Dan” Malloy is using every opportunity to show his unending support for expanding charter schools at the expense of Connecticut’s public schools.

You can also read more about this story at CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/up-next-charter-group-that-battled-nyc-mayor-comes-to-ct/

Malloy’s plan to privatize public education charges forward today

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(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

Key Bridgeport activist in battle to stop education reform industry leaves Working Families Party

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Maria Pereira, the former Bridgeport Board of Education member who fought Paul Vallas and his corporate education reform initiatives, helped lead the effort to strike down the Malloy administration’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Schools System, played a pivotal role in defeating Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s failed initiative to do away with an elected board of education and replace it with one that he would appoint, and helped run the successful campaign to strip the education reformers of their majority control of the Bridgeport Board of Education has resigned her position with the Connecticut Working Families Party State Central Committee.

Maria Pereira’s resignation is significant on a number of levels not the least of which is it highlights the problem facing some of Connecticut’s labor and progressive group leaders.

Governor Malloy’s decision to seek re-election has placed some labor leaders in an extremely difficult spot.  While Malloy has utilized a “scorched earth policy” in his attacks on public education and state employees, some labor and progressive leaders are trying to argue that their organizations should still endorse Governor Malloy despite the fact that has earned the reputation as the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic Governor in the nation.

The effort to endorse Malloy won’t fly with many activists and rank and file members who have directly suffered from Malloy’s policies

In here resignation letter to the chairs of the Working Families Party, Bridgeport’s public school advocate wrote the following,

In 2009, the Working Families Party of Connecticut gave me an opportunity which I would not have been given by either major political party.  I was a parent of public school student, who had never aspired to, or been elected to public office.  I had not been politically active.

I will always be grateful to the Working Families Party for nominating me to run for a seat on the Bridgeport Board of Education.  I was elected to the Board and completed my four (4) year term.

During the course of that term, the State Board of Education, in a conspiracy orchestrated by hedge fund billionaires, the Bridgeport business community, Mayor Finch and the Governor’s Office, illegally disbanded the democratically elected Board of Education, and installed in its place, an appointed corporate dominated Board.

Along with a minority of the Board, I opposed this cabal, which was ultimately declared illegal by the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Thanks to the Rule of Law, I was returned to the Board, and completed the term to which I had been elected.  I spent my own resources on legal fees in this effort, but it was worth the effort.

Another attempt by the Mayor of Bridgeport, backed by Bridgeport’s corporate interests, sought to install an appointed Board of Education in the City of Bridgeport.  This power grab was rebuffed by the people of Bridgeport, who elected to retain their voting rights in November 2012.

As you know, the Working Families Party has never had a Bridgeport town committee with a formal organization structure, as that term is commonly understood.  Prior to the 2013 municipal election, the executive director, established, on a temporary basis a Working Families Party Committee in Bridgeport.  Following the 2013 municipal election, papers were filed dissolving that Committee.

However, notwithstanding the absence of a formal organizational structure, I was pleased when Working Families Executive Director, Lindsay Farrell, asked me to accept the ceremonial office of Chair of the Bridgeport Working Families Committee.  I deeply appreciated the gesture because I believe that the mission of the Working Families Party is to advocate for, and to speak for the people, not for the corporate and political elites.

The Working Families Party has served as a vehicle for ordinary people in the City of Bridgeport to make their voices heard and to make their votes count.  By winning seats on the Bridgeport Board of Education in two municipal elections and in a special election, the Working Families Party has served as an opposition force, which this one-party city so desperately needs.

Should you wish to establish a functioning  Working Families Party organization in the City of Bridgeport, I wish you every success.

However, because the Working Families Party has indicated its intention to support the re-election of Governor Dannel Malloy, I cannot be a part of or associated with any such effort.

I believed that with a Democrat in the Governor’s Office, for the first time in two decades, those of us who were working for better educational outcomes for public school students in our urban centers would find a supportive and encouraging governor. 

How wrong I was!

One of Governor Malloy’s first efforts was to disenfranchise the voters of Bridgeport by installing a corporate Board of Education.  By trampling upon the democratic process, Governor Malloy exhibited his disdain and contempt for the people of the City of Bridgeport and proved that he is a willing accomplice of the corporate educational establishment.

I had hoped for a governor who would work with the elected Board of Education. Instead, we were subjected to a hostile takeover, the arrogance of a corporate board, and contempt for the Rule of Law.

I believe that the hard working men and women of the City of Bridgeport are as fully capable as their counterparts in Fairfield and Stratford, of electing their own leaders.  Governor Malloy has demonstrated that he does not share this belief.

Therefore, in light of your support of the re-election of Governor Malloy, I cannot be associated with or be a part of the Working Families Party in any way.

Please consider this letter my formal resignation from the Connecticut Working Families State Committee effective immediately.

Thank you for your attention in this matter,

Maria Pereira
Bridgeport, CT

In response to Maria Pereira’s letter the Working Families Party put out a press statement saying,

Maria cites the upcoming gubernatorial election as a reason for her break with the party. The Working Families Party has a rigorous and democratic process for choosing our nominees, and there is lively debate within the Working Families Party about the best choice for us this year. But the party has not made any endorsement yet and any speculation that we have a candidate selected in advance is simply false.

The Working Families Party looks at the records of all the candidates, regardless of political party, and endorses the one who will stand up for working-class, middle-class and poor families. The process starts with an extensive questionnaire on topics ranging from the right to organize a union in the workplace, to fair wages and benefits, to protecting public education. This year, the Working Families Party will also hold a candidates’ forum for our members to hear from and publicly question candidates seeking our endorsement. Our leadership and members will also hold interviews with interested candidates. Only after all of this will the state committee officially decide whether or not to endorse a candidate for Governor, and which.

As has always been the case, the Working Families Party will endorse the candidate who will be the most effective advocate for policies that benefit hardworking families across the state. We’ve always been clear about our values. On some issues, like education, we have disagreed with the Governor. On others, like paid sick days, organizing rights, and the minimum wage, we have aligned with him. There will be extensive discussion and debate as the Working Families Party decides how to proceed with our endorsements.

The Working Families Party response is a hopeful sign that the labor and progressive oriented organization intends to take their endorsement process seriously, the truth will become apparent in the coming months when Governor Malloy tries to explain why he deserve support from those that he has trampled in his on-going effort to undermine the rights of teachers, state employees and other community based union, liberal and progressive groups and their members and supporters.

Look out Bridgeport, here comes Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry

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According to the website that hosts his “inspirational” speaking business, Steve Perry is the “Most Trusted Educator in America.”

His “non-nonsense” approach to education takes many forms, including an obsession with his Twitter Account.

Just the other day Steve Perry Tweeted,

“Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults. Let your kid get used to somebody digging in the ass! That’s life, get over it.”

Despite having a full-time job as a principal in the Hartford School System, a job that he is absent from more than 20% of the time due to his fee-for-appearance speaking tours, Steve Perry has created a private charter school management company and now wants to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, the Connecticut State Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the proposal to open what would be called the Capital Prep Harbor School.

Connecticut taxpayers would pick up 100% of the costs of Perry’s new school, while Bridgeport taxpayers would continue to have to pay for the transportation and special education costs at Perry’s school, although the local Bridgeport Board of Education would have no control over the school or its activities.

You can read the application by clicking here: [PDF]

Readers will note that two of Perry’s key backers are Mayor Bill Finch and Finch’s campaign manager and disgraced and ousted Board of Education Chairman, the Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

The application doesn’t indicate whether Perry will be bringing his notorious “Table of Shame” to Bridgeport should the state approve his charter school application.

In Hartford, Perry’s discipline policies are enforced by humiliating children by making them sit at the Table of Shame, making them eat standing up, making them stand up during entire academic classes or making them stand up for extended periods of time facing the wall.

The March 18, 2014 will be held at the Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School which is located at 840 Old Town Rd. in Bridgeport.

Although Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education don’t take kindly to public input, the hearing is supposed to be “an opportunity for the general public to comment and submit written testimony on the school’s application.”

The hearing will take place from 6-8 p.m. Speakers will be limited to three minutes.

Anyone who has experienced Perry’s educational philosophy or care about the children of Bridgeport should plant to attend the public hearing.

Those who can’t attend but want to submit testimony should send their comments to the State Board of Education via the following email address: [email protected].

The State Department of Education will also hold a mass public hearing on all charter school applications, including Perry’s, on April 2, 2104 in Hartford.

More crazy sh*t Capital Prep Steve Perry has said

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Steve Perry is the principal of a public school in Hartford, Connecticut.  For that job, the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut pay Perry close to $200,000 in salary, benefits and retirement credits.

But Steve Perry also has a lucrative speaking business that means he is absent from his job about 20 percent of the school year.

Perry has also set up his own private charter school management company and with eight of his fellow Capital Prep administrators and teachers Perry has submitted a proposal to open a charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Regardless of what happens with that pending application, Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry will always be known for his offensive Tweet of November 21, 2013.

After the Hartford Board of Education rejected Steve Perry’s request to transfer Capital Prep Magnet School and another Hartford Elementary school over to his private company, Perry Tweeted,

Dr. Steve Perry‏@DrStevePerry
“The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.”

Strap up is slang for putting on a concealed pistol and “there will be head injuries” doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.

If a student posted that threat, they’d be arrested, suspended and probably prohibited from ever returning to a public school.

If a teacher said that, they be fired and papers filed to have their certification revoked by the State Board of Education.

But Steve Perry said it…  And neither Christina Kishimoto nor the Hartford Board of Education took any disciplinary action at all.

But that was hardly the only time Steve Perry has used his Twitter account to make threats or say inappropriate things while on the job.

In fact, Perry has spent hundreds of hours Tweeting when he should have been working.  And the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut were left picking up the tab for that time.

Whether on Twitter, in speeches, interviews or in writing, Capital Prep’s Steve Perry has said some pretty crazy stuff.

In an April 2013 speech in Minnesota, when talking about teachers unions Perry said “we need to call out the roaches.”

Perry also used the speech to blame teachers for the “literal death” of children.  [This coming from a Connecticut school administrator 120 days after school administrators and teachers gave their lives in a desperate attempt to save children at Sandy Hook Elementary School].

But outrageous and disgusting rhetoric has been Steve Perry’s consistent forte.

Here are just a few of quotes and comments,

“Enough is a damn ‘nuf…  Drag sorry principals and teachers out into the street.  Kick open the doors in our communities and collar lazy parents.  Line ‘em all up on Main Street, snatch their pants down and show the entire world the ass that they have given our kids to kiss.”  (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

“The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) ain’t liberal and they damn sure aren’t progressive.  Their drab played out policies are more conservative than the National Rifle Association.  The AFT and the NEA make the NRA look like a San Francisco gay pride parade.”  (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools).

“If you think about it, being a teacher is one of the most stable jobs you can find…Over 95 percent of all Connecticut’s tenured teachers kept their jobs this year, so one would think 95 percent of our students would be…When their children’s performance suffer, they do not [suffer].”  (Perry interview, Hartford Advocate 2010)

“Dictatorial teachers’ unions despise Steve Perry.  So do lazy teachers.  So do entrenched, unimaginative school boards.”  (Cover Flap, Perry’s book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“Teaching kids is stressful, and we don’t need any punks.”  (Perry’s Book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“We are looking for attractive, smart, interesting people.  Yes, I said attractive.  Why?  Because attractive, smart, and interesting people sell kids everything—from breakfast cereal to Xbox games.  That may sound cynical, but it’s the truth.  Why should we expect anything different when trying to sell children education?”  (Perry’s Book, “Push Has Come to Shove”)

“The leaders of our teachers’ unions have ruined public schools.  They are the ones who created the school calendar that is too short and a six-and-a-half-hour school day…” (Perry’s book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“Teachers’ unions are not the only professional parasites feasting on our public schools.  Add the unions representing principals, secretaries, custodians, security officers, and paraprofessionals and you’ll begin to see why our schools don’t work…Their working conditions are awesome.  Our schools are failing.”  (Perry’s book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“Yet the union leadership often claims that parents want neighborhood schools.  Lie.  Maybe the teacher that live (sic) in nice neighborhoods want them, but Black people that live in the hood want out of their neighborhood schools in a hurry.” (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

“Let’s get it straight: schools are failing because of the people who work in them, not because of parents like you.  The truth is that one factor—teacher effectiveness—has the greatest impact on student performance.”  (Perry’s book, Push Has Come to Shove”).

“[On Capital Prep’s community…]  We’ve built a bold bad ass (sic?) band of brothers and sisters of all hues who share a sir name and it is Love.” (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

“We are one of the nation’s most successful schools because we don’t whine that the difference our kids.” (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

His communication style on Twitter is equally bizarre,

Perry has also used his Twitter account to call the Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, a racist on at least 49 occasions.)

Perry recently Tweeted, “Oh yeah, by the way CPrep started w 55 freshmen 4 yrs ago and will graduate 53, 100% of whom have acceptance letters to 4 year colleges.”

The statement is a bald face lie.  Perry has been losing 10-30% of his students over the years.  This year’s “graduating class” is down at least 10% from the 9th grade.  Others have transferred into his school which explains his claim that there are 53 graduating from Capital Prep this year.  However, Capital Prep’s dropout or push out rate is significant.

And finally, like most bullies, Steve Perry is not only arrogant and abusive but thin skinned.  In response to a Wait, What? blog post and some criticism, Perry went on a Twitter rampage one day Tweeting,

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
Be the person worth talking about not the clown talking about other ppl.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
Think about it, if you’re the topic in a room that you’ll never visit, what does that say about the room? Be bold & don’t look back.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
If your greatest contribution is the criticism of others, your life is w/o value and you will deep the poison fruit you’ve sewn.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
The only person who has to get you is you. You’ve got to like you the most. If you dig you, who gives a damn what others think?

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
When they’re counting what’s going in your pocket, they clearly ain’t putting nothing in theirs. Man, their life must really suck.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
They only ppl worrying about what you’ve got do have anything of their own. Feel bad for them, their life sucks.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
Don’t EVER let anybody make you feel bad for being successful. The fact that they’re not is THEIR problem, not yours. Let THEM live w it.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
We have shined the lights on those who have been responsible for forcing kids to go to failed schools & my God are they desperate to stop us

The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government (Part II)

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Last week, there was a Wait, What? blog post was entitled, “The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government.”

The blog post was an effort to highlight another “MUST READ” commentary piece that fellow public education advocate and blogger, Sarah Darer Littman wrote for the opinion section of CT Newsjunkie.  Her piece was an explosive investigation into environmental justice, racism, political corruption and how many policy decisions are made in Connecticut.

But it turns out that what followed the publication of Sarah Darer Littman’s piece was even more telling when it comes to the state of the state of Connecticut politics, and the political elite’s dedication to misleading the public.

By reading Littman’s commentary piece and Mayor Bill Finch’s response to that piece, we get a first-hand view of the arrogance, greed and entitlement that permeates government today.

Start with Sarah Darer Littman’s column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption.”   Then read Mayor Bill Finch’s response which is entitled “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a ‘Good’ Op-Ed.”

As noted in the previous Wait, What? post, the actual issue relates to a complex deal in which Bridgeport’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

While the actual cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, the story is really about power politics and how public relations and rhetoric have become more important to politicians than substance.

In this case, Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents, as well as Connecticut taxpayers, are nothing but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.

But the truly important aspect of the debate is the way Mayor Finch responded to the concerns raised in Littman’s column.

Again, start with Sarah Darer Littman’s “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption” and then read Mayor Bill Finch’s, “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a ‘Good’ Op-Ed.”

The irony in the title of Finch’s commentary piece is reason enough to read it beginning to end.

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.

The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government

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As measured by the number of college graduates Connecticut is among the most educated states in the nation.  As measured by per capital income Connecticut is wealthiest state in country, and if we were our own country we’d be one of the wealthiest and best educated countries in the world.

And yet there is a sickness that is increasingly evident in Connecticut politics.  It takes the form of elected and appointed officials who display a level of arrogance, greed, entitlement, and what appears to be an growing level of outright corruption…in both political parties.

In Sarah Darer Littman’s latest MUST READ column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruptionin this weekend’s CT Newsjunkie, Sarah Darer Littman shines the bright light of truth on a complex deal in which Bridgeport ’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

By the time their effort is over, the cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, and that doesn’t even begin to count the cost to Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents who are but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.

Sarah Darer Littman introduces her piece with the following,

If the window of government transparency in Connecticut has become foggy lately, in Bridgeport it’s turned into a funhouse mirror.

The latest to come from Mayor Bill Finch’s Carnival of Corruption was a vote Thursday evening to proceed with phase one of a deal to build a new Harding High School on 17.2 acres of a 78-acre brownfield site on Boston Avenue, currently owned by General Electric. This would enable Finch and his allies to sell the current Harding High site to Bridgeport Hospital.

According to federal law, a brownfield site refers to “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

The aforementioned brownfield site is, according to a piece in the CT Post, “contaminated with lead, arsenic, petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile compounds.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers helpful information about School Siting Guidelines, and why they are so important:

“Children, particularly younger children, are uniquely at risk from environmental hazards. They eat, drink and breathe more in proportion to their body size than adults. In addition, environmental contaminants may affect children disproportionately because their immune, respiratory and other systems are not fully developed, and their growing organs are more easily harmed. This means they are more at risk for exposure to harmful chemicals found outside where they play and in the environment where they spend most of their time — school and home.”

As might be expected, parents and those representing the community have concerns — especially since most of the process for this deal (like so much of what goes on in Bridgeport) has taken place behind closed doors. Indeed, in the minutes from the Bridgeport School Building Committee meeting on January 3, 2013, Finch Deputy Chief of Staff Ruben Felipe reports that GE asked the administration to keep their conversations confidential. Thus both the sunlight and the community were kept out. Helping to keep things under wraps was the fact that the School Building Committee failed to file their statutory notices with the town clerk’s office until February 2014, evidenced by this email from Frances Ortiz, assistant City Clerk.

There’s been some gob smacking chicanery involved, because, let’s face it, this wouldn’t be Bridgeport if there weren’t.

A petition to the City of Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission was filed in the name of the City of Bridgeport Board of Education (File 13-74). It was signed on Dec. 3, 2013, by John Eberle of Stantec Consulting Services and on Dec. 18, 2013, by Marian Whiteman, executive counsel for Transactions & Brownfields at General Electric.

On Jan. 13, 2014, Sauda Baraka, chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education (in whose name the Planning Petition was apparently being made) wrote to Melville T. Riley, Jr, the acting chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, asking that the item not go forward with a public hearing for the application because the education board hadn’t voted to approve a site plan nor a special permit concerning that property. In what is a reflection of the incredibly sad state of affairs in Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport, she was forced to ask the Planning Commission for copies of any application filed on the behalf of the Board of Education. How ridiculous is it that an elected Board of Education should have to ask another city body for copies of planning applications being filed in its name?

Probably as a result of Baraka’s letter, the planning application was withdrawn from the Jan. 13 meeting.

But by Jan. 16, the Finch administration was able to work magic with fairy dust — or White Out — and Lo! The exact same application with the exact same signatures (on the original you can see the correction fluid) and now guess what? It reads “City of Bridgeport School Building Committee”!  Suggested new campaign slogan for Bill Finch: “If you can’t beat ‘em, erase them!”

And Sarah Darer Littman’s column goes on from there with some of the most disturbing elements of the story yet to come.

You can read her whole column at via the following link,

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_environmental_racism_of_bridgeports_carnival_of_corruption/?utm_source=CTNewsJunkie.com&utm_campaign=a3172ccfcf-FNF_302_Feb_21_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a493d2308d-a3172ccfcf-92882173

As you read the piece ask yourself, is this Connecticut our citizens deserve?

Steve Perry adds “therapist” to his title of “educator” and author

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Steve Perry calls himself American’s most trusted educator. 

While Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers pay him a full-time salary and benefits to serve as the principal of the Hartford School System’s Capital Prep Magnet School, Perry skips about 20% of the school days so that he can travel the country giving speeches for hire.

When Perry does show up for work he spends an inordinate amount of his time promoting his speaking business through media interviews and his obsessive use of Twitter while on public time.

Most recently, Perry has been busy pushing a plan to use his private company to open up a charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Local support for his plan comes from corporate education reform industry ally Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Finch’s campaign treasurer, Kenneth Moales.  Moales tried and failed to get his own charter school last year, but has used his position on the Bridgeport Board of Education to push the charter school agenda.

Just this past Thursday, Steve Perry was out-of-state giving a speech and holding a book signing session at Winston Salem State University.

The Thursday before Perry was the keynote speaker at a conference at Kent State University in Ohio.

For that one, Perry was introduced at an author, principal and CNN education contributor.

The description went on to say that, “Perry is the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., which has been cited by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top schools in the country. Capital Prep has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.”

But of course, that statement is patently untrue.

Capital Prep HAS NOT sent 100% of its graduates to four year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

Today Perry is northern Virginia to give the keynote address at the annual VABHMA Gala Reception.

And this time Perry’s bio has been expanded to proclaim that he is not only an educator and author, but that he is also a therapist.

The event biography leads with the following:

Dr. Steve Perry’s heart pumps passion and produces positive change. Featured in CNN’s Black in America series, Dr. Perry is the most talked about innovative educator on the scene today.

Perry is the founder and principal of what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in the country, Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. Capital Prep has sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

100% of Capital Prep’s graduates have gone to four year colleges?

Despite the fact that falsifying and padding one’s resume has downed a number of politicians over the years, some individuals apparently continue to believe that they don’t have to live by the same standards, rules and laws that apply to the rest of us.

No real financial support for public schools, but plenty more for charter schools (especially Bridgeport)

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When Dan Malloy was running for governor he pledged to make adequate funding for Connecticut’s public schools a priority.

Instead Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education corporate education reform industry initiative of any Democratic governor in the country.

Rather than use state education funds to support local schools and take some of the pressure off local taxpayers, Malloy has used scarce public funds to push his own initiatives including implementing the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing scheme and an unfair and inappropriate teacher evaluation system.

Compounding the problem has been Malloy’s devotion to diverting money to Connecticut’s charter schools.  In fact, the single largest beneficiary of Malloy’s charter school largesse has been Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

But Malloy and Pryor have been shoveling public funds to other charter school companies as well.

The charter school management company known as Jumoke Academy/FUSE has been given additional money and control of two neighborhood public schools.  The executives of Jumoke Academy have been given management control of the Milner Elementary School in Hartford and the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.  The Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE was even appointed to the Connecticut Board of Education by Governor Malloy.

Meanwhile, other charter school companies have already been approved or are seeking approval to open new schools in Connecticut.

Last month, nine new charter school applications were submitted to the State Department of Education.

Despite the inadequate funding for existing public schools and a projected $1 billion state deficit for the year following this November’s gubernatorial election, Malloy’s budget includes funding for at least two new charter schools.

A primary target for the expansion of charter schools has been Bridgeport, in part because Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is considered a strong charter school advocate.  Bridgeport already has four charter schools.

As the Connecticut Post recently reported;

“BRIDGEPORT — An outspoken Hartford magnet school principal, a Rhode Island education reform advocate and a longtime city teacher who also happens to be the mayor’s ex, all want the same thing: open the state’s next charter school here.

The three applications represent a third of nine applications received by the state to open charter schools this fall or next….”

[…]

The new plans include two schools prepared to open next fall if they receive approval — the Capital Prep Harbor School, modeled after a Hartford magnet school run by Stephen Perry and the STEAM Academy for Girls, started by Claire Mastromonaco, a fifth-grade teacher at Johnson School, who is also the ex-wife of Mayor Bill Finch.

A third contender is Great Oaks Charter School, a school spearheaded by Maryellen Butke, founding director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now.”

Charter school companies see Connecticut as a prime target for expansion because not only does the state give charter schools money for every student they take in, but the cost to transport those charter school students and the cost to provide them with special education services continues to be paid by the local school district.

The Connecticut Post article goes on to summarize the three new Bridgeport charter school proposals;

Charter School Proposal #1

“STEAM

Mastromonaco said she has always wanted to start a school for girls. A classroom teacher for 18 years, Mastromonaco also runs the Children’s Center for the Arts. Her background is in the arts, but she loves the sciences and math and said she sees too many of her female students lose confidence and “check out” by the time they reach middle school.

She said a single-gender school that focuses on science, math and the arts will help them more feel confident.

STEAM would open in the former Holy Rosary School near Washington Park with 108 pre-kindergarten through first-graders and grow to a 252 pre-K to fifth-grade school by its fifth year. The school would strive to be racially balanced, draw from the suburbs and city. Its preschool would be Montessori-based.

Christopher Finch, her son and a teacher in New York City, would serve on her governing board along with several Bridgeport educators and parents.

In a letter of support for STEAM, Bruce Ravage, director of Park City Prep, a charter school that has won permission to add a fifth grade, said Mastromonaco knows the student population well and is in a unique position to address its needs.”

Charter School Proposal #2

“Capital Prep Harbor School

Asked why he’d want to come to Bridgeport, Perry, a lightning rod for school reform issues, talks about the city’s waterfront location, proximity to New York City and its potential.

“Bridgeport has always been one of those cities you heard about,” Perry said. The charter school he would form here would be modeled after the public magnet school he has run in Hartford for nearly 10 years.

It would have a theme of social justice, a longer school day and year, require students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities, and would strive — according to the 600-page application — to send all graduates to four-year colleges.

“Running it as a charter would be different,” said Perry. “It would create the opportunity for us to be more creative. Quite frankly, there are limits within the structure of a large school system. Even when people don’t want it to, it has to be the same. That sameness presents a challenge to schools like ours.”

Something else that is different is that Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., a private management company run by Perry, would get 10 percent of the fee, $2.5 million over the first five years of the contract. Perry said that is common when charter firms run more than one school. It also remains unclear how much the school would pay for rent.

The Harbor School application said the city has dedicated space in the Bridgeport Technology and Trade Center on Barnum Avenue and the proposed budget shows no rental expenses. The city, however, doesn’t own that property.

Among supporters of the plan are Kenneth Moales Jr., a member of the city school board.”

Charter School Proposal #3

“Great Oaks

Great Oaks would be a college preparatory school geared largely toward English language learners, who make up more than 13 percent of students in the district.

The school day would be long, stretching from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., followed by after-school activities. The school year would be 200 days, compared to the normal 180 days a year.

There are already Great Oaks schools in New Jersey and New York, said Christina Grant, vice president of the Great Oaks Foundation, who acts a chief academic officer for both schools. The school would start with 100 sixth-graders and work its way up, providing two hours of individualized tutoring to students every day, according to the application.

It would also be located in the former Singer Factory on Barnum Avenue, where three other city charter schools (Bridge Academy, New Beginnings and Park City Prep) all got their start. Great Oaks would pay $10 a square foot for 6,366 square feet. It wants to open in the fall of 2015. Its management fee built into its budget would amount to $1.6 million over the five years.

One of the many letters of support for the proposal came from Meghan Lowney, executive director of the Zoom Foundation, and a behind-the-scenes player when the city school board was taken over by the state in 2011. Great Oaks’ plans, she wrote, are aligned with her efforts to rapidly improve public education opportunities for underserved children by pooling and leveraging financial, human and political capital.”

Although public hearings are required on each proposal, the decision to approve or reject a proposal rests with the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.   The charter school law severely limits the role of local boards of education.

 

 

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