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

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.

Crocodile tears from Achievement First Inc…

The two CEOs of Achievement First, Inc.  the large charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, published a commentary piece in yesterday’s Hartford Courant entitled, “Charter Schools Changing Suspension Focus.

In the piece, Co-CEO’s Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll wrote that, “Achievement First had an important wake-up call last week when a state report included several of our public charter schools because of their high suspension rates — posing a direct challenge to our promise to provide an excellent education to all our students. The last few days have been tough as we work to reconcile our values and our practices. We recognize that our suspension numbers are simply too high, and we are committed to significantly reducing the numbers.”

Tough week as we reconcile our values and our practices?

Wake-up call?

The media reports astronomical suspension rates at Achievement First schools, including the fact that it suspends kindergarteners at rates up to 15 times higher than in neighboring public schools, and the co-CEOs say the news was a “wake up call” and “created a tough week” for their management team?

Achievement First, Inc. is a “non-profit” corporation with income of over $103 million, 82% of which comes from taxpayer funds.  Their central office operation cost exceeds more than $12 million.

And they want the public to believe that they didn’t know their outrageous and medieval discipline policies included suspension rates that regular people would label child abuse?

In addition to Co-CEOs Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll, the Achievement First management team includes a  Vice President for Information Technology, a Chief of Staff, a Senior Director of Talent Development, seven (7) Regional Superintendents, a Senior Director of Facilities, a Chief Academic Officer,  a Chief Information Officer, a Senior Adviser, a Vice President for Recruitment, a Vice President for, Leadership Development, a Vice President for Business Information Systems, a Chief External Officer, a Senior Director for Data Strategy, a Senior Director for Strategic Partnerships, a Senior Director for Marketing & Communications, a Vice President for Development, a Chief Financial and Operating Officer, a Vice President for School Operations, a Vice President for External Relations and  a Senior Director for Human Capital.

And despite all that talent, no one knew about the impact of the school suspension policies on the children attending Achievement First, Inc. schools.

It occurred to no one that the rate of suspensions was excessive and the impact was nothing short of child abuse?

Instead of owning this outrageous record of failure, Achievement First uses their commentary piece to rationalize their abusive behaviors writing, “Although we have an unacceptably high number of suspensions at many Achievement First schools, the technical definition of suspension (which we hold to) is a removal from class or other activity for more than 90 minutes. Many of the in-school suspensions last year (for example, 88 percent of them at Achievement First Hartford Academy Elementary) were less than three hours long.”

And the two CEOs go on to explain, “For minor misbehavior, however, we need to flip this paradigm — instead of receiving less class time, these students need more class time. If a student is seriously disrupting the learning environment and making it so that others cannot learn, then we should provide that student with extra support after school or on Saturday.”

Wait, What?  Connecticut taxpayers are paying Achievement First, Inc. millions of dollars and it is only now that they realize that students who are having problems need more, not less, class time?

And perhaps most telling of all is that after their gratuitous claim that, “We welcome this statewide conversation about suspension practices. Going forward, our principals and regional superintendents will set clear goals around suspension data, make plans for their schools as a whole and for individual students, and regularly review progress. Our deans of students will receive additional training this summer and throughout the year on appropriate suspension practices and what’s working across and outside our network.” The Achievement First propaganda machine returns to their old talking point stating, “Our primary goal remains the long-term success of our students. Achievement First’s urban public schools continue to post gap-closing student results, and, for the fourth year in a row, 100 percent of our high school graduates are headed to college…”

It is telling that Achievement First, Inc. would return to one of their biggest lies, claiming they have a 100% graduation rate, without explaining how they toy with children and families’ lives in order to “get” that number.

Wait, What? readers know the truth.  Achievement First’s 100% college acceptance rate is based on polices that “lose” over 50% of the students who begin at Achievement First four years earlier and perhaps even more shocking, leave dozens of students with four years of high school and no diploma to show for it.

For anyone who believes the sincerity of Achievement First’s latest piece, I have, as the saying goes, a bridge in New York City to sell them.

For the full effect of Achievement First’s rhetoric, I urge readers to examine the full Achievement First Op-ed. which can be found at:  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-mccurry-achievement-first-suspensions-target-20130616,0,2041591.story