Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Robert Cotto Jr. Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Fuse, Robert Cotto Jr
Show Me The (Charter Management Fee) Money!
Robert Cotto Jr. is one of Connecticut’s leading educate advocates, an elected member of the Hartford Board of Education and part of the Educational Studies program at Trinity College.
In his recent CT Newsjunkie commentary piece entitled, Show Me The (Charter Management Fee) Money! Cotto lays bare the truth about the charter school industry is taking Connecticut’s taxpayers for a ride while diverting scarce public funds from Connecticut’s real public education system.
Robert Cotto writes;
When traditional schools pay their bills to educate kids, they usually don’t have much money, if any, remaining. When charter schools pay their bills, they often have money left over to spend. How much? It depends on the school. For a number of charter schools, roughly 10 percent of all of public dollars meant for educating children in these schools go to pay fees for private companies called “charter management organizations.” That’s a problem.
Connecticut law states that a charter management organization (CMO), “means any entity that a charter school contracts with for educational design, implementation or whole school management services.” These CMOs claim that they are private corporations, not public agencies. Organizations that claim to be CMOs in Connecticut include Achievement First; Capital Preparatory Schools; DOMUS, and Jumoke/FUSE, which is now defunct. It’s often hard to tell the difference between the CMO and the charter schools they manage.
Roughly 10 percent of a charter school’s budget can go toward management fees. For example, the New Haven-based CMO called Achievement First charged Achievement First-Hartford Charter School a $1.14 million management fee in 2013-14. The state provided Achievement First-Hartford charter schools more than $11 million to operate. So about 10 percent of that state funding went to Achievement First the CMO, not the charter school in Hartford, which ended the year with a surplus.
For every $100 dollars the public spends on this charter school, the CMO called Achievement First gets $10 off the top.
Multiply this fee by the four Achievement First charter schools in Connecticut, and Achievement First Inc., the CMO, walks away with about $4.45 million in fees.
Instead of operating schools as public responsibilities, CMOs operate charter schools as moneymaking arrangements, almost like fast-food franchises. Companies like Subway Inc. charge local franchises a fee for services ranging from start-up, food supplies, to signage. This is how Subway makes a profit.
The CMOs could be spending this money on millions of dollars in No. 2 pencils, helping to buy foot-long Subway sandwiches at lobbying events, or paying for student field trips to rally for more charter school money. It’s just unclear.
To fully appreciate how Connecticut’s taxpayers are being ripped off by charter school companies, read Robert Cotto’s entire article at:
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Michael Sharpe, Steven Adamowski, Wendy Lecker ConnCAN, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Fuse, Jumoke at Milner, Michael Sharpe, Steven Adamowksi, Turnaround School, Wendy Lecker
Education Advocate Wendy Lecker has another column out and it is once again in the “MUST READ” category.
Her latest piece is part one of a multi-series takedown of those who use fiction rather than facts to fancifully present the term “school turnaround” as if it was a magic bullet.
This particular chapter begins with the Can Can Team from ConnCAN who recently performed a dog and pony show for Connecticut state legislators where they crowed about the “success” of various “school turnaround” projects.
Using their traditional corporate education reform rhetoric, rather than facts, the charter school front group performed magic that would have made a “three card Monte” aficionado proud. [Three card Monte being a card trick in which the mark can’t win because trick cards are used.]
The well-documented corporate education reform failures of New Orleans and Philadelphia were incredibly heralded as successes and that was before they got out their shovels and really started throwing IT around.
Here is Wendy Lecker’s latest MUST READ commentary piece, which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate.
Failure as a model for Connecticut (By Wendy Lecker)
A recent large-scale federal study revealed that most states lack expertise to turn around struggling schools and are rarely successful. It’s no wonder. Legislators who write turnaround laws never turn to the experts: educators. Connecticut is no exception. Last month, the General Assembly’s Education Committee held a day-long session on school turnarounds. Instead of relying on education experts, it turned to ConnCan, the charter lobby known for its evidence-free reports that push one agenda: Taking power away from school districts to pave the way for privatization.
ConnCan brought in three examples of turnaround to push the idea that the key to success is handing schools or entire districts over to outside operators.
The most startling choice for a presentation was Hartford’s Milner school. Recall that Milner was one of the first commissioner’s network schools. Milner suffered through a failed turnaround in 2008 under then-Superintendent Steven Adamowski. It also had a persistent and severe lack of resources. Rather than providing Milner the necessary resources, the State Board of Education decided to turn it around again in 2012, handing it over to Michael Sharpe’s FUSE/Jumoke charter chain. FUSE/Jumoke had no experience educating ELL students, which made up a large part of Milner’s population. After the revelations of Sharpe’s criminal record and falsified academic credentials, it came to light that FUSE/Jumoke ran Milner school into the ground, hiring ex-convicts, relatives and “winging” the takeover, as Sharpe admitted — all while supposedly under heightened scrutiny by state officials.
Milner’s principal under this takeover, Karen Lott, told Milner’s story. She admitted that this fall, only 13 percent of Milner’s students scored proficient in ELA and an even more shocking 7 percent were proficient in math. She said although they are in the fourth year of the Commissioner’s Network, she is treating this as the first year. Amazing! No public school would be allowed to fail for three years, then magically erase its poor track record.
She blamed the school’s poor performance on several things. First, there was high staff turnover at the school: 85 percent of teachers now have 0-3 years’ experience teaching. This is mind-boggling, as staff turnover was not only the result of the state takeover but one of its goals. Lott spoke of the need now to “aggressively recruit” veteran teachers. Like the ones Jumoke-Milner pushed out in the first place? She also stated that now she is relying on teacher training and mentoring from Hartford Public Schools.
Lott further explained that under Jumoke there was no curriculum. She is now using the Hartford Public Schools curriculum and assessments.
Lott also emphasized that community supports are necessary for children to achieve. She said families need stable housing and mental health services, parents need job training and the neighborhood needs to be safe and clean. Imagine that — poverty affects learning. If this were a public school educator saying these things, ConnCan would condemn her for using poverty as an excuse.
Lott detailed the steps she was now taking beyond the Hartford curriculum, assessments, training and mentoring. She acknowledged that a centerpiece of her efforts is a large increase in resources. Milner now has a full-time therapeutic clinician and after-school programs. Hartford Public Schools re-opened its budget to provide the school will more computers. Central office also allowed Milner to have two half-days a month, so teachers get additional professional development. Lott also said she now implements Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a system used by many public schools.
To her credit, Lott seems to be focusing on proven methods of helping students: extra academic and social support for at-risk children, training, mentoring and support for teachers, and adequate school resources. What must be stressed is that none of these ideas are innovative. Nor do any of these resources require takeover by an outside operator. They are tools schools either already use or have been pleading for. The lack of these resources is a basis for Connecticut’s school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell.
Lott contended that what she needed is more time, more resources and more autonomy. Schools need time and resources to improve. The claim for autonomy, however, is puzzling, given she is relying on central office for curriculum, assessments, training, mentoring and special treatment so she can get resources other schools do not have.
Lott’s message is — perhaps unintentionally — the opposite of the one ConnCan is pushing. Schools do not need takeover or turnaround. Just give struggling schools time, support and resources to do what everyone already knows helps kids learn.
You can read and comment on Wendy’s original piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Failure-as-a-model-for-Connecticut-6267220.php
Charter Schools, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Charter Schools, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sh, State Board of, Stefan Pryor
Editors Note: Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the podium to declare victory in November, Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education – including the appointee representing the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut Chapter – voted to request funding to open eight more charter schools in Connecticut. The vote was unanimous, with absolutely no discussion of how to make existing charter schools accountable for their activities or the fact that Connecticut’s public schools are underfunded and additional funding will not be forthcoming anytime soon since Malloy’s fiscal strategies have left the state facing a large budget deficit this year and a massive $1.4 billion budget shortfall next year.
With that as background, fellow education blogger and public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, has written another “MUST READ” piece about the Malloy administration’s utter failure to oversee Connecticut’s charter schools. Wendy Lecker’s piece appears in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate. The entire commentary piece can be found here: An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools
One aspect of the Common Core regime imposed on Connecticut schools by our political leaders is an emphasis, some say over-emphasis, on informational texts, based on the claim that reading more non-fiction will somehow make students “college and career ready.” While our leaders force children to read more non-fiction, it appears that they are the ones with trouble facing facts.
Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Education quietly distributed a scathing investigative report on the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain, conducted by a law firm the department retained. The report reads like a manual on how to break every rule of running a non-profit organization.
The investigators found that although FUSE and Jumoke were supposed to be two separate, tax-exempt organizations, both were run by Michael Sharpe alone. FUSE, formed in 2012, never held board of directors’ meetings until after the public revelations in the spring of 2014 of Michael Sharpe’s felony record for embezzlement and falsification of his academic credentials. FUSE entered into contracts with the state to run two public schools without approval by its board. In fact, it is unclear that FUSE even had a board of directors then. Jumoke, too, played fast and loose with board meetings. Jumoke’s board gave Sharpe “unfettered control” over every aspect of the organization. Even after he left Jumoke for FUSE, Sharpe still ran Jumoke, leaving day-to-day operations to his nephew, an intern there.
Hiring and background checks were in Sharpe’s sole discretion. He placed ex-convicts in the two public schools run by Jumoke, Hartford’s Milner and Bridgeport’s Dunbar. Dunbar’s principal, brought in by Sharpe, was recently arraigned on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the school.
Nepotism was “rampant.” Sharpe’s mother founded Jumoke. Sharpe moved from paraprofessional to CEO in 2003, with no additional training. His unqualified daughter and nephew were hired, as well as his sister.
The investigation found extreme comingling of funds and of financial and accounting activities, noting that it “would be difficult to construct a less appropriate financial arrangement between two supposedly separate organizations.”
Jumoke/FUSE used state money to engage in aggressive real estate acquisition, some not even for educational purposes, and some inexplicably purchased above its appraised value. Properties were collateral and/or were mortgaged for one another. Loan rates were excessive. To date, loans are guaranteed by FUSE, which is not operational.
Jumoke leased Sharpe part of a building who, violating the lease, sublet it and collected rent. Sharpe hired Jumoke’s facilities director’s husband to perform costly renovations on the parts of the building, his bedroom and bathroom, paid by Jumoke.
These are just some of the misdeeds that occurred without oversight by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. The board approved contracts to run two public schools without verifying that FUSE had no board of directors. It approved millions to be paid to FUSE/Jumoke to buy non-educational buildings, charge excessive consulting fees to public schools and engage in possibly fraudulent activities. Worse still, the board allowed Jumoke/FUSE to run Milner school into the ground, jeopardizing the education of Milner’s vulnerable students.
After this inexcusable negligence by the board, one would hope that the board become more responsible stewards, calling for a moratorium on charters and turning their focus to devising sorely needed accountability for charter schools before any more public money is wasted and any more children’s lives are affected.
Yet, after the revelations about Sharpe’s crimes and lies, the board rushed through the charter application for Booker T. Washington school, originally intended for FUSE, without any investigation into the dubious record of the new leader or the questionable ties between the school and its contractor. In November, the State Board unanimously voted to open eight new charter schools, without any regard to whether there are state funds to support these schools.
And now Gov. Dannel Malloy approved $5 million dollars in taxpayer funds to be paid to “assist charter schools with capital expenses,” including helping privately run charters pay down debt on buildings they own. In the aftermath of the misuse of public funds by a charter for real estate shenanigans, the first thing Malloy does is give charters more money for real estate?
This administration and State Board of Education have an unacceptable “anything goes” approach to charter schools. This willful blindness must stop. Anything short of a moratorium on charters and specific, new clear and strict rules on charter approval and oversight is a continuation of the board’s dereliction of its duty to Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Booker T. Washington Charter School, Charter Schools, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jennifer Alexander, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Fuse, Jennifer Alexander, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Quite simply it is the single best assessment of the issues surrounding the Jumoke/FUSE charter school scandal.
The article, written by Sarah Darer Littman is called, “Where’s the Accountability? Anyone?” and it can be found in its entirety on the CTNewsJunkie website – http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/
Read it and ask yourself…. Where is the accountability?
Sarah Darer Littman open with;
Dumping embarrassing news on the eve of a holiday is becoming a habit for the Malloy’s administration — and there’s been plenty of it to ring in the inauguration of his second term.
Late last Friday it was the release of the FUSE/Jumoke investigation report, which revealed financial mismanagement, nepotism, and misuse of public funds by a charter operator lauded by the Malloy administration. But the most disturbing part of this whole affair is that it reveals how millions of our taxpayer dollars are being handed out to private entities with little or no due diligence based on the recommendation of a closed, closely entwined loop of foundations, political allies, and corporate beneficiaries.
What investigating attorney Frederick L. Dorsey left out of his report, perhaps because he was hired by the state Department of Education, is how the department and the state Board of Education and so many others enabled Michael Sharpe in his unethical endeavors.
Take for instance, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who appointed former FUSE Chief Operating Office Andrea Comer to the state Board of Education. Or the state Ethics Commission, which ruled that there was no conflict in having Comer, the chief operating officer of a charter management company benefiting from millions of dollars of public funds, serving on the board that grants them. Then we have our state legislators, who unanimously confirmed Comer to the position. Maybe they were too busy playing solitaire when the vote was taken.
What about Stephen Adamowski, Paul Vallas, and the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education who voted to bring FUSE to Bridgeport as part of the Commissoner’s Network? The Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr. said he was “honored” to have Sharpe and FUSE in the district. Moales, of course, has — according to education reform critic Jonathan Pelto — had his own ethical challenges when it came to overbilling the state for daycare slots.
And she then closes with;
Last April, the state Board of Education voted to authorize the Booker T. Washington/FUSE charter school in New Haven. Perhaps they were influenced by glowing letters of recommendation from well-known political figures in the state: New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, and ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander, to name a few.
With messaging consistency that would make Republican pollster and messaging guru Frank Luntz proud, both Mayors DeStefano and Harp opened with exactly the same phrase: “I enthusiastically support the application for the Booker T. Washington Charter School, here in New Haven, CT. The proposed school will teach our young moral character, self advocacy, and common core standards, in order to impact their success in our diverse global environment.”
Having read Attorney Dorsey’s report on what took place at Jumoke Academy, there are definitely lessons to teach our young, but “moral character” isn’t the one that springs to mind.
Here’s ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander: “Two key reasons for my support for the Booker T. Washington [school] is its collaboration with a proven high-quality provider, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) . . . FUSE has a track record of success.”
That depends on your definition of “success,” doesn’t it? If “success” constitutes feathering your own nest at the expense of taxpayers, behaving unethically, and acting in such a way that even the parents at your own school “have questions about accountability for the financial piece,” as stated in the FUSE Board of Trustees minutes dated Oct. 10, 2013, I guess FUSE did have that track record.
Listening to these same enablers say that “it’s for the kids” while they fleece the public purse is infuriating. But what really enrages me is knowing that there are so many fine educators in classrooms across this state trying to teach and help children day in and day out while being deprived of basic resources, while politicians are allowing our taxpayer dollars to be siphoned off by crooks.
The commentary piece written by Sarah Darer Littman is, as they say, “on point.”
Go to CT Newsjunkie right now and read the complete article at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/
Andrea Comer, Charter Schools, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Andrea Comer, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Jumoke at Milner, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor
Released late Friday afternoon (January 2, 2015) to ensure minimal media coverage, the report issued by the investigator appointed by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education leaves some of the most important issues completely unaddressed.
While the Malloy administration’s investigation notes, among other issues, that there were;
(1) No FUSE Board of Directors meetings until June 2014,
(2) That All FUSE employees were “processed through Jumoke payroll, under Jumoke’s payroll tax number, and received Jumoke paychecks,”
(3) There was “extreme intermingling of funds” between Jumoke and FUSE.
And that the fault for all the issues lies with the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe.
Read the report – Jumoke/FUSE Charter and Turnaround Operation – and you won’t find any mention of FUSE’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrea Comer.
The same Andrea Comer who was appointed to the State Board of Education by Governor Malloy in the Spring of 2013, despite the obvious conflict of interest between working as an officer for a charter school management company with state contracts and serving on the board that sets state policies concerning charter schools.
In fact, while the report states that interviews were conducted with present and former FUSE employees, it isn’t even clear whether Andrea Comer was even interviewed.
But Andrea Comer is a key witness to the crimes, violations and misdeeds conducted by Jumoke/FUSE.
For example, in her capacity as Jumoke/FUSE’s COO, Andrea Cromer (along with Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and Kishimoto and Pryor’s top aides) sat through every important meeting related to handing Hartford’s Milner School over to Jumoke/FUSE.
While the new report blasts how Sharpe handled the oversight of Jumoke at Milner, and even highlights the fact that significant funds remain missing, the report fails to even mention the deal-making that led to Jumoke/FUSE getting a no-bid contract to control a Hartford public school.
Nor does the report explain the role Comer, Kishimoto, Pryor or their top aides played in the scam.
And it wasn’t like any of these issues should have come as a surprise …The State Department of Education’s investigator could have started with the following blogs;
On April 10, 2013, the Wait, What? post began as follows:
“BY A VOICE VOTE SO THAT NO ONE WOULD NEED TO BE ON RECORD, the Connecticut House of Representatives confirmed Governor Malloy’s nomination of Andrea Comer to serve a four-year term on the State Board of Education.
Comer, who works as the Chief Operations Officer for the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school management company, and previously worked for Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Achievement First, Inc, one of the nation’s largest charter school management companies, will be filling the State Board of Education seat that was most recently held by an official from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.
As a member of the State Board of Education, Comer will be in a unique position to directly and indirectly help her employer and the charter school industry continue their ongoing privatization efforts.
FUSE/Jumoke Inc. already collects millions of dollars in state funds distributed by the State Department of Education and has major expansion plans. Just last year, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education directed that Hartford’s Milner elementary school be handed over to Jumoke to manage.
The decision to give one of Hartford’s public schools to the Jumoke Academy was not only lucrative for the Jumoke Academy but was even more noteworthy because the Milner elementary school has been one in which half the students come from households that didn’t speak English and fully one in four students weren’t fluent in English. The Jumoke Academy, by comparison, has never had a single bi-lingual student during its many years of existence and has consistently failed to provide educational services to its fair share of special education students.”
The issues were clearly laid out in the following articles as well;
Pelto to Malloy – Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut (June 25, 2014)
The Malloy/Pryor Jumoke Charter School Gravy Train (March 10, 2014)
House sticks it to the 99% of public school students who attend public district schools by confirming charter school executive to the State Board of Education (April 10, 2013)
Will the Connecticut House vote tomorrow to confirm a Charter School Executive to the State Board of Education? (April 9, 2013)
Oops, Malloy’s nominee to the State Board of Education didn’t quite tell the whole story (April 1, 2013)
The complex issue of stealing public education…Just ask Malloy’s nominee for the State Board of Education (March 25, 2013)
One Adam-12, One Adam-12, we have a COI in progress (March 19 2013)
Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education (March 15, 2013)
Charter Schools, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Charter Schools, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor
Before the Hartford Courant revealed that the CEO of the FUSE/Jumoke Charter School Chain wasn’t the “Dr.” he claimed to be and had served time in prison for embezzling money from a public agency in California, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration had given the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe and his company, FUSE/Jumoke Academy, lucrative “no-bid” contracts to run neighborhood schools in Hartford and Bridgeport, as well as granting him approval to open a new charter school in New Haven.
All that largess came on top of the $53 million that Sharpe and his company had already collected in taxpayer funds to pay for the Jumoke Academy, a charter school in Hartford.
As Sharpe’s sordid past came to light, the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company collapsed and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor (aka the fox guarding the hen house) put the charter school management company on probation and ordered an investigation.
Interestingly Pryor and the State Board of Education’s action was aimed solely at the “FUSE” portion of the charter school management organization as the charter for the Jumoke Academy was left untouched. In his capacity as CEO of the Jumoke Academy it was Sharpe who once told a legislative panel that reason the charter school had virtually no special education students was because they had a special program that went into their kindergarten classes and cured the students of their special education needs. [But even statements like that didn’t stop the Malloy administration from pouring even more money into the charter school.]
Now, months after the investigation was called for, an incredibly damning report has been made public.
But in a typical move designed to limit political fallout and protect the guilty, Governor Malloy’s State Department of Education failed to release the stunning report until late in the afternoon on Friday, January 2, 2015.
The Hartford Courant, which has led the investigative work on FUSE/Jumoke didn’t get a full news report up until 8 p.m. and the CT Post, another media outlet that has followed the story, produced their updated report after 10:30 p.m.
Oh, and try as you might, you won’t even find the press release or the report listed on the Department of Education’s “Media Page.”
But you can get the news via the Hartford Courant’s piece entitled, “Probe Of Charter School Group Blasts ‘Suspect’ Conduct, ‘Rampant Nepotism.’”
Also, the CT Post stories can be found at, “State releases investigative report on FUSE/Jumoke,” and “State report details problems with FUSE management.”
The CT Post has also provided a link to the actual report: http://blog.ctnews.com/education/files/2015/01/Jumoke-FUSE-Invest-2014-2.pdf
And Diane Ravitch has quickly produced an excellent summary of the issues at, “Connecticut: State Investigation Finds Rampant Nepotism and Lack of Oversight at Charter Chain.”
There will be much more about this report in the coming days, but the facts reveal the complete lack of oversight of charter schools in Connecticut and the way the report was released provides a firsthand look at the Malloy administration’s dedication to keeping citizens from knowing just how bad the situation is and how much of the people’s tax dollars are being wasted by these privately-run, publicly-funded charter school companies.
Bridgeport, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Maria Pereira, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Corporate Education Reform Industry, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Jumoke at Dunbar, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor
When Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education voted to hand Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School over to the FUSE/Jumoke charter school chain, the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe began by firing all but 4 of the school’s 19 teachers and hired Baton Rouge, Louisiana principal and “turnaround expert,” Marilyn Taylor, to serve as the principal of the Jumoke Academy at Dunbar.
Less than sixteen months later, Marilyn Taylor has now been charged with stealing more than $10,000 from Dunbar’s school’s fundraising account and spending the money gambling at casinos in Mississippi and Connecticut.
At an August 19, 2013 ceremony at the school, Bridgeport’s “superintendent” and corporate education reform industry guru Paul Vallas gushed about Jumoke and its holding company, The Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE).
Vallas, who was joined at the event by Commissioner Stefan Pryor told the assembled crowd, “The transformation will be extraordinary, because this group has done it in the past.”
According to a story in the CT Post as the time, Principal Marilyn Taylor took the microphone and using what is classic education reform rhetoric, added, “You are the parents of scholars now…Don’t let this be the only opportunity we see you.”
But while FUSE promised that their special education “model” would produce what Taylor called, “quick wins,” the results were anything but good for the school, its principal and the 15 new Jumoke at Dunbar teachers, eight of whom were Teach for America (TFA) recruits.
Earlier this year, before the Jumoke/FUSE organization collapsed in disgrace and its records were seized by the FBI, a Jumoke Academy at Dunbar official was quoted in another CT Post story telling that Bridgeport Board of Education that, “the management group they brought in to run the school this year — when Dunbar joined the Commissioner’s Network — are people who truly care about the students.”
The CT Post story explained that, “Being part of the state network means extra funding and state support in exchange for implementing changes meant to bring about a quick turnaround in school culture and test scores.”
At the time the Malloy administration and the Bridgeport Board of Education decided to hand the school over to Jumoke/FUSE, Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira, “cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she wondered what the district could accomplish on its own with the money.”
Then, only a few months later, the Hartford Courant broke that story that “Dr.” Michael Sharpe never received a doctorate and that, in fact, he had served a lengthy prison sentence for embezzling funds from a public agency in California.
Now Sharpe’s hand-picked principal, Marilyn Taylor, is out on bail after posting a $20,000 bond and Interim Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz has told the CT Post that, “Marilyn Taylor will not be returning to work as a principal in Bridgeport. I don’t want to say more at this point.”
Interestingly, Taylor has been out on paid administrative leave for the past six weeks and, according to the CT Post, “The alleged theft from a student activity account occurred in November 2013 and involved thousands of dollars generated from student fundraising, according to sources…at the time, Dunbar was being run by Family Schools for Urban Excellence.”
The news coverage of Taylor’s arrest fails to identify whether Taylor played any role in helping Jumoke/FUSE “win” an extremely lucrative contract to run up to three public schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. However, the contract with FUSE was later canceled by the Louisiana state authority that had originally signed the contract when Jumoke/FUSE collapsed.
Those issues are apparently among those that remain under investigation by the FBI.
And as for Stefan Pryor, the out-going Commissioner of Education, is concerned…a spokesperson for the Commissioner told the CT Post that the decision to remove Marilyn Taylor was “’a local decision’” and said she had no knowledge of whether it was related to the state’s probe into FUSE…”
Check back for updates on this breaking story.
Common Core, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding [CCJEF], Connecticut Education Assocation, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Tenure, Teachers CEA, Charter Schools, Common Core, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Foley, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowksi, Teacher Evaluation, Teacher Tenure
In what appears to be an ongoing effort to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor, has proposed an education policy that looks eerily similar to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives.
Over the past four years Governor Malloy has earned the reputation as the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation and remains the only Democratic governor to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the state’s poorest schools.
However, instead of providing Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public school advocates with appropriate policies that would support and strengthen public education, Tom Foley has proposed an education plan that appears to be designed by the very same corporate education reform industry groupies that are behind Malloy’s ill-conceived education initiatives.
In fact, elements of Foley’s plan appear to be a virtual copy of the proposals being pushed by Steven Adamowski, one of Malloy’s top advisors who presently serves as Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and formerly worked in the same capacity in Windham.
While Foley’s plan is vague and lacks details, the foundation of his education agenda, according to media coverage, would “mandate that parents in struggling schools be allowed to move their students anywhere within their local school systems, with money following the child.”
It is a system that has been tried and failed repeatedly around the country and is a particular favorite of Steven Adamowski, who previously served as superintendent of schools in Hartford before taking that same inappropriate approach with him to New London and Windham.
Tom Foley is quoted as saying,
“What I’m hoping is that when you have in-district public school choice and money follows the child that the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools to perform better…So, right away, that schools are on notice that if I’m governor, I’m going to try to make sure this gets passed and implemented, so if they should start trying to be better schools right away, to the extent they can.”
The Foley plan would be a disaster for Connecticut, but in what may be one of the biggest ironies of the entire 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Malloy and his legislative supporters have blasted Foley for announcing his plan…despite the fact that Malloy and the Democrats in the General Assembly have supported very similar policies.
In a story entitled, Malloy sees, seizes opportunity in Foley’s school plan, the CT Mirror reported,
“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy moved quickly Thursday to exploit what Democrats say is an ill-considered and impractical proposal by Republican Tom Foley to allow urban parents to pick the local public school of their choice and strip money from failing schools as their children go elsewhere.
Malloy said the education proposals Foley made Wednesday as part of a larger urban agenda show that the Greenwich businessman has no grasp of current education policies and resources, nor does he appreciate how devastating it would be to urban school systems to begin denying funds to schools that need more resources.
“You can’t treat a school like a factory. You don’t sell it. You don’t close it. You have an obligation to make it work,” Malloy said.”
This from the Democratic governor whose “Commissioner’s Network” program has undermined local control, handed public schools over to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain in Hartford and Bridgeport and devastated a number of urban schools by implementing a “money follows the child” system that has left troubled schools without the resources they need to even serve the students that have remained in those schools.
According to the news article, Malloy went on to blast Foley saying,
“It’s a bunch of mush. It’s a mouthful of mush is what it is, except it’s dangerous,” Malloy said of what he called an ill-defined plan. “It’s defeating. It underlies an absolute lack of understanding of how education works in Connecticut. He gets an F for homework. He gets an F for plagiarism. And he gets an F for new ideas.”
Malloy’s quote is truly incredible considering the ideas that Foley is “stealing” come from Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and the gaggle of education reform industry supporters that surround Malloy.
As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and his campaign operatives are hoping that they can use Foley’s blunder on education to persuade the Connecticut Education Association to endorse Malloy tonight when they meet to decide whether to endorse a candidate for governor or make no endorsement in this year’s election.
The fundamental problem with Malloy’s latest strategy is that it would require the CEA leadership to overlook Malloy’s record of failure and destruction when it comes to his own policies on public education.
To endorse Malloy, the CEA would be throwing their members “under the bus” since Malloy’s record includes the following:
- Governor Malloy is the ONLY Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.
- To date, Malloy has never publically renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position nor has he admitted that he made a mistake when he originally introduced the proposal.
- Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.
- To date, Malloy has not committed to “de-coupling” the teacher evaluation program from the unfair and inappropriate standardized tests.
- When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate (even unconstitutional). As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.
- To date, Malloy has not promised to settle the CCJEF lawsuit and develop a constitutionally appropriate school funding formula.
- As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support. Connecticut has learned from the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School debacle that charter schools are not held accountable and it took a raid by the FBI to ensure that charter schools are held responsible for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.
- To date, Malloy has not announced a moratorium on additional charter schools until mechanisms are developed and put in place that will ensure that taxpayer funds are not being misused, wasted or stolen.
- And while tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive Common Core Standardized Testing Program, Malloy and his administration have repeatedly lied and misled parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.
- To date, Malloy and his administration have FAILED to tell parents that they do have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core standardized testing scheme.
Despite Tom Foley’s decision to join Malloy in backing the corporate education reform industry’s agenda, any endorsement of Malloy – prior to him publicly reversing course on the issues listed above – would be an insult to every Connecticut teacher and the tens of thousands of parents and public school advocates who are counting on the Connecticut Education Association to stand up for public education in Connecticut.
You can read more about Foley and Malloy’s antics in the following articles:
CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/malloy-sees-seizes-opportunity-in-foleys-school-plan/ and http://ctmirror.org/foleys-urban-agenda-something-borrowed-something-new/
CT NewsJunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_stands_his_ground_on_education_policy/ and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/democratic_lawmakers_criticize_foleys_education_policies/
Courant: Malloy, Unions Criticize Foley’s Education Plan
Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Gubernatorial Election 2014, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Fuse, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Jumoke, Malloy, Michael Sharpe
Provides stunning argument as to why Malloy does not deserve four more years! Over this past weekend, public education advocate and CT NewsJunkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman published a scathing commentary piece on the Malloy administration, the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain and the tens of millions of taxpayer funds being wasted on charter schools in Connecticut. You can read Sarah Darer Littman’s CTNewsJunkie column here – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse and the Wait, What? re-post and assessment of the piece here – Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman. But as incredible as Sarah Darer Littman’s original piece is, the response from the CEO of ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, is even more telling. Wait, What? readers will recall that ConnCAN led the $6 million, record breaking, lobbying effort on behalf of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform bill that undermined local control and attempted to do away with tenure for all public school teachers, while repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts. ConnCAN also played a pivotal role in the failed attempt to do away with an elected board of education in Bridgeport, their campaign becoming the most expensive charter revision effort in history. And more recently, ConnCAN’s Board of Directors, and their immediate family members, have funneled more than $100,000 into Malloy’s re-election campaign operation — despite the fact that Malloy has taken $6.2 million in public funds to pay for his re-election effort. Normally, when presenting an attack piece by the corporate education reform industry, some critique is required, but not in this case. In this case, the response from Jennifer Alexander, ConnCAN’s CEO, is so absurd that it stands on its own without any introduction or review… You can read ConnCAN’s full response here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_lets_develop_solutions_to_connecticuts_toughest_problems/ Alexander writes,
“Regarding Sarah Darer Littman’s Sept. 19, 2014, op-ed, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” the egregious twisting of facts and history buries the important message at the core of Littman’s argument. Sadly, the piece is also a distraction from the real issue at hand, which is improving schools for all children in our state. […] I encourage her to join a real dialogue about how best to achieve these goals. It’s time to move away from tired personal attacks and unfounded conspiracy theories, roll up our sleeves and get to the real work of improving public education. Our kids are counting on it. It is, after all, our responsibility to ensure all kids have the opportunity to achieve their goals. Together, with hard work, dedication, and a bit of creativity, we can ensure Connecticut remains a place where people want to live, work, and invest in their future.
This from the individual and organization that recently sang the praises of Jumoke/FUSE and the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe. Not to mention their unending efforts to divert taxpayer funds to privately run schools that consistently discriminate against those who don’t speak English and those who need special education services. The message from ConnCAN is loud and clear…..their message is – If you are satisfied with Malloy’s corporate education reform policies, then go ahead and vote for him. If, on the other hand, you are tired of charter schools wasting millions of dollars of our scarce public funds, then Malloy is definitely not the one you want to vote for. Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Stefan Pryor Charter Schools, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Stefan Pryor, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. She is also one of the most important voices on behalf of public education in Connecticut.
This week Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece on CTNewsJunkie is a key addition to the discussion about the impact the corporate education reform industry is having in Connecticut and how key players in the Malloy administration, the City of Hartford and various pro-education reform entities are undermining Connecticut’s public education system.
In a piece entitled, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” Sarah Darer Littman writes,
“…I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner…
Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012
This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws , the Board is meant to act as a whole.
But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.
On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012 — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”
What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.
I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions when it comes to transparency and accountability.
But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.
One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”
And the stunning, disturbing and incredible story gets worse…. Much, much worse…
The entire “MUST READ” article can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_let_foundation_money_be_a_trojan_horse/
Sarah DarerLittman ends her piece with the observation,
That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.
While Sarah is absolutely right about the need for greater transparency and accountability, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that various players within the Malloy administration and the City of Hartford violated the spirit and the letter of Connecticut law. While great transparency and accountability is vitally important, when it comes to the Jumoke/FUSE issue, indictments and convictions are also in order.
But please take the time to read the commentary piece – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse.