Steve Perry Claims Victory – Tweeting – “Not leaving, just expanding.”

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Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers appear poised to subsidize Steve Perry’s private charter school management company thanks to an agreement announced last Friday between Perry and Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools.

Although labeled by Hartford Superintendent as an “informal, non-binding’” agreement, the plan would require the Hartford Board of Education and the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut to subsidize Steve Perry’s charter school management company [called Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. (CPS)] by paying the salaries of Capital Prep Magnet School Assistant Principal Richard Beganski, [who is slated to serve as “Chief Academic Officer” for Perry’s private company], as well as paying the salaries of seven other Capital Prep Magnet School teachers [all of whom are will be serving key roles in Perry private company].

The lucrative deal for Perry was put together and announced without a vote of the Hartford Board of Education.

In announcing the agreement, “outgoing” Capital Prep Magnet School Principal Steve Perry wrote,

“I am pleased to announce that together with our superintendent, Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, we have generated a plan that will establish “sister schools” between Capital Prep and our new schools.”

In turn, according to a Hartford Courant article entitled, “Capital Prep’s Steve Perry, Superintendent Work On School Collaboration,” Hartford Superintendent of Schools Beth Schiavino-Narvaez provided the Hartford Board of  Education with a memo explaining that she had developed “’an informal, non-binding’” pact with Perry that would allow Capital Prep and Perry’s new charter schools to “share training among staff, guidance on best practices” and “opportunities for student collaboration on projects and visits.”

Later on Friday, when a Perry supporter Tweeted, “I’m sorry to see you leaving Hartford!” Perry responded;

Dr. Steve Perry‏@DrStevePerry
“Not leaving, just expanding.”

As for the parameters of the deal, The Hartford Courant wrote,

“Narvaez said the district would not pay a fee for the goodwill arrangement… [And] Narvaez stressed that Hartford does not cede any power to Perry or his charter group.”

However, what Hartford’s Superintendent failed to address is what appears to be the massive financial subsidy for Perry’s private charter school operation that is hidden inside the “agreement.”

As part of his application to the New York Board of Regents for his proposed Harlem Capital Prep Charter School, Perry wrote;

“CPS [Capital Preparatory Schools Inc. which is Perry’s private charter school management company] is designed to be a fiscally fit “boutique” charter management organization (“CMO”) ….Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools.”

“Our anticipated enrollment across all four CPS network schools is approximately 2,500 students between 2015 and 2020. Capital Prep Hartford has 700 students.”

According to Perry’s application to open Harlem Capital Prep, his private corporation’s financial plan was based on collecting management fees from all of his schools, including the public school in Hartford.  The Harlem Capital Prep application reads;

“Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.”

The application goes on to note;

“CPS [Perry’s private company] will support Capital Prep Harlem through its oversight of the principal, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, and its overall monitoring of fidelity to the Capital Prep model.  CPS will also utilize its two other schools in Bridgeport and Hartford to provide professional development and to share resources. The three schools will act as a ‘boutique’ network in which faculty, staff, parents and students participate in academic and social exchanges.”

According to the application, “MANAGEMENT CPS will launch operations with a core management team representing a mix of deep education experience, business expertise, and political savvy. This ‘hybrid’ team will be crucial to CPS’ success as a high-growth organization in a rapidly changing industry.”

The application states that Stephen D. Perry will serve the charter school management company’s “Head of Schools” and Richard Beganski will serve as CPS’ “Chief Academic Officer.”  Beganski presently serves as Capital Prep’s Assistant Principal.

The New York application states that, “Ten founding group members from Capital Prep came together to launch CPS as the school management organization to lead replication of the Capital Prep model.”  The founding members of the charter management company are then listed, nine of the ten being full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education.

The application reports that the CPS “GOVERNANCE” team includes;

Stephen D. Perry, MSW, EdD…

Richard Beganski, MA, has been the Academic Dean of Capital Prep since the school began in 2005. Mr. Beganski has created or co-created most of the original documents that have constituted the structure for Capital Prep…

Scott F. Wojnarowicz, MA has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Math Department since 2005. Mr. Wojnarowicz was the founding member of the Capital Prep Magnet School planning committee. In addition, he was the primary author of the original draft of the Capital Prep Student Expectations manual, co-author of Capital Prep’s Blueprint, and author of Capital Prep’s Physical Education and Wellness Plan…

Kelly Horan, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Science Department since July 2011. Since joining the Capital Prep, Ms. Horan has taken on increasing levels of responsibility in an effort to improve teaching and learning through data-driven instruction…

Scott Kapralos, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Math Department since 2005. Mr. Kapralos was one of the founding members of Capital Prep and has committed most of his career to the development and improvement of the Capital Prep model…

Kitsia Ferguson, MBA, EdD, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the English Department since 2006 and is currently the Head of Capital Prep’s Lower School.

Monique Ethier, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the Math Department since 2007.

Lauren Davern, MA, has been a teacher at Capital Prep in the History Department since 2007…

Lisa Loomis, has been Head of the English Department at Capital Prep since August 2013 and a teacher at Capital Prep in the English Department since July 2012…

All of these individuals are presently full-time employees of Hartford Public School System.

What is absolutely clear is that according to the documents Perry and his private company provided the New York Board of Regents, control of Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School was critical to his plans, not only since he would be collecting a multi-million dollar management fee for running Hartford’s public magnet school but because he would be using Capital Prep to employee the majority of the members of his private company.

By deciding not to turn Capital Prep Magnet School over to Perry and his charter school management company, Hartford put Perry’s financial plan in serious jeopardy.

However, as a result of the Hartford Superintendent’s new “informal, non-binding’” agreement, the Hartford Board of Education and the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut seem ready to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidies to Perry’s operation by paying the salaries of Richard Beganski,( the “Chief Academic Officer” for Perry’s company) and seven other Capital Prep Magnet School teachers, who according to the New York charter school application, will be playing key roles in Perry private company.

Considering the financial issues facing the City of Hartford and the State of Connecticut it is astonishing that the Hartford would agree to divert scarce resources to support Steve Perry’s ambitions to develop a lucrative charter school management company.

Steve Perry announces Capital Prep will have “sister status” with his privately owned charter schools

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When Steve Perry, who serves as the principal of Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School Principal and is a full-time Hartford employee, submitted his application to the New York Board of Regents to open a new charter school in Harlem that would be owned and operated by his private charter school management company, Perry not only claimed that he controlled Hartford’s public school but that his business plan included receiving significant income from running Hartford’s Capital Prep.

The New York Board of Regents requires applicants to provide a corporate financial plan to ensure potential charter school operators have the financial resources to maintain their commitments concerning proposed new charter schools.

As part of his application to the New York Board of Regents for the proposed Harlem Capital Prep Charter School, Perry wrote;

“FINANCIAL PLAN – Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.”

But of course, Perry’s private company has no contract to manage Capital Prep, let alone collect “excess management fees” from the Hartford Board of Education.

According to various sources knowledgeable about Perry’s backroom deals, when Hartford’s superintendent baulked at the notion of handing Capital Prep over to Perry’s private company, Perry proposed that he would “manage” Hartford ‘s Capital Prep for a token $1 a year.

If Perry’s offer was genuine and he intended to forgo the millions in management fees that he originally reported  for running Hartford’s Capital Prep,  then he was in direct violation of the plan he submitted to the New York Board of Regents.

Yet there is no evidence that he ever informed the New York Board of Regents that the financial plan he has submitted with his official application was no longer valid.

Alternatively, the $1 a year offer was nothing but a ruse and Perry still intended to collect millions of dollars from Hartford in the form of management fees and/or salaries for members of his company.  Nine of the ten top members of his private charter school management company are full-time administrators and teachers at Capital Prep Magnet School, making them full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education.

Regardless of whether Perry was lying to the New York Board of Regents, earlier this week, Hartford Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez issued a letter to “Parents, Guardians and the staff of Capital Preparatory School that Principal Perry would be leaving at the end of the school year and a new Capital Prep principal would be selected utilizing Hartford Board of Education procedures and policies.

However, less than forty-eight hours later, Steve Perry had his own announcement for Capital Prep parents informing them that he and Hartford’s superintendent had developed a plan that, “will establish “sister schools” between Capital Prep and our new schools,” and that Perry himself would be playing a primary role in the selection of Capital Prep Magnet School’s new principal

Perry added in his letter to parents that his strategy “will ensure that students, parents and staff from each of the schools can collaborate for the betterment of all children. Together we will create the professional learning community that so many of us wanted.”

Perry’s announcement is silent on the financial deal between Perry’s private company and the Hartford Board of Education.

However, the charter school application approved by the New York Board of Regents continues to be based on Perry collecting millions of dollars in management fees from all three of “his schools,” which he lists as Hartford’s Capital Prep and his proposed charter schools in Bridgeport and Harlem Charter schools.

While Perry presents the situation as a “done deal,”  it is extremely unclear as to what authority Hartford’s superintendent of schools would have to cut such a deal with Perry and why the Hartford Board of education has not been informed of  Perry agreement with the superintendent nor has the board voted on this vague and  inappropriate scheme.

The one thing that is clear is that Mr. Perry’s sworn application to the New York Board of Regents, an application that the Regents used to approve his plan to open a charter school in Harlem, claims that Perry controls and will continue to control Hartford’s public school.

Perry’s New York application states,

“CPS [Perry’s private charter school management company] is designed to be a fiscally fit “boutique” charter management organization (“CMO”) ….Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools.”

“Our anticipated enrollment across all four CPS network schools is approximately 2,500 students between 2015 and 2020. Capital Prep Hartford has 700 students.”

“Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.”

Rather than investigate and confront the serious legal and financial issues raised by Mr. Perry’s claims, with this supposed agreement in place the Hartford Superintendent and Board of Education appear to have thrown in their lot with Perry , thus becoming co-conspirators in an effort to walk away from their fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens of Hartford and Connecticut.

Perry embarks on yet another “New Endeavor” while a full-time Hartford employee

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Clearly the six figure income Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry collects from Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers isn’t slowing down his “extra-curricular” activities.

In addition to his lucrative public-speaking business and his private charter school management company, the Hartford Board of Education employee – who misses more than 25% of Hartford school days – has joined television Bishop T.D. Jakes in creating a new “Continuing Education Program.”

According to a press release issued last month, Steve Perry, Bishop T.D. Jakes and businessman Daymond John (of ABC’s Shark Tank) have created a new “continuing education program to help professionals take their careers to the next level.”

According to the news coverage following the press release, Perry is referred to as a Ph.D., which of course he is not.

The media report is that Perry’s new endeavor is in conjunction with the “TD Jakes School of Leadership – Higher Learning for a Higher Purpose,” (See at http://tdjakesleadership.com/.) The website features a picture of Perry and explains that the education program is “powered by Regent University’s Professional and Continuing Education division.”  Regent University, in turn, reports that they are, “one of the nation’s leading academic centers for Christian thought and action, with associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees available worldwide. Our academic standards are high and our programs rigorous, but what sets Regent apart is our mission to prepare capable men and women to excel both in mind and spirit. Our students, faculty and administrators share a calling, founded on biblical principles, to make a significant difference in our world. (http://www.regent.edu/)

When explaining how the new program got started, Capital Prep’s Steve Perry told one publication, A couple years ago, Bishop Jakes and I started talking about working together around the topic of education….Eventually the partnership with Regents came forward and it was an opportunity to take this online learning experience and bring it to our community.”

Perry adds, ““The curriculum is cutting-edge, relevant and innovative, and taught by industry experts…You can take individual classes to refresh your skills or enroll in a series of courses toward earning a certificate.”

The new program’s marketing material adds,The T.D. Jakes School of Leadership was instituted by T.D. Jakes and Regent University’s Professional & Continuing Education division (PCE) to provide world-class educational tools and resources for leaders seeking higher learning opportunities to grow and excel in their professional and personal development…The school fulfills Jakes’ vision to make quality educational tools accessible to those leaders seeking to advance their professional careers. The T.D. Jakes School of Leadership offers fully accredited, industry-focused certificate programs and leadership institutes for professionals, emerging leaders, knowledge workers in transition or retirees desiring to chart the course for the next phase.”

You can read more at;

http://tdjakesleadership.com/; http://www.regent.edu/; http://www.regent.edu/academics/pce/; http://www.blackenterprise.com/career/steve-perry-working-bishop-jakes-leadership-program/ and http://www.blackenterprise.com/career/steve-perry-working-bishop-jakes-leadership-program/

Breaking News – Capital Prep Steve Perry leaving Hartford

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Steve Perry, the man who described himself as the, “most trusted educator in America,” is leaving his post as principal of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory School in order to pursue his desire to join the charter school industry and expand upon on his plans to develop a charter school management company.

Hartford Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez notified parents, guardians and staff of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in a letter writing that Perry, “will be leaving the role of principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School at the close of this school year.”

The Hartford Superintendent added, “As we say thank you to Principal Perry for his service to the Hartford Public Schools, we will engage you in finding the next leader of the school….During this period of transition from one school leader to another, I want to assure you that the district’s relationship with Capital Prep and its support of the school will not change.”

While Perry’s departure is extremely good news for those concerned about his leadership style, his excessive absenteeism and his school’s unwillingness to educate its fair share of non-English speaking students and children who require special education services, Perry’s decision to depart Capital Prep Magnet School leaves numerous outstanding issues un-addressed.

For example, the Hartford Superintendent’s letter only references the news that Steve Perry will be leaving his post.

However, there are eight other full-time Capital Prep administrators and teachers who are listed as founding members of Perry’s charter school operation and are included in Perry’s plans to open up charter schools in Bridgeport and Harlem, New York in the fall of 2015.

According to the official documents filed with the Connecticut and New York State Departments of Education, Perry’s has stated that Capital Prep’s Assistant Principal, Richard Beganski, is a key member of Perry charter school management company and will hold leadership positions at the proposed charter schools.  Obviously, as a full-time employee of Capital Prep, Beganski can’t remain in his present job and thus it can be assumed that Beganski’s resignation will be forthcoming soon.   The situation is equally true for the other seven full-time Hartford Board of Education employees who Perry has listed a part of his company and charter school management operation.

Considering that initial charters were granted based on Perry’s claim to have a team already in place, and that his applications actually listed these individuals as key players, a number of other Capital Prep administrators and employees must be planning to join Perry in the Hartford Public School System.

An even more important, but unresolved issue, is how Perry can even replicate Capital Prep Magnet School in Bridgeport and Harlem when federal copyright laws and Hartford Board of Education policies appear to make it clear that the concepts, materials, curriculum, policies and procedures that Perry has said he will be using in his charter schools actually belong to the Hartford Board of Education and the taxpayers of Hartford and do not belong to Perry or Perry’s private company as he claimed in his Bridgeport and Harlem charter school proposals.

With pending complaints filed against Perry at the state and local level in Connecticut and New York about these issues, his ability to meet the requirements of the new charter applications appears doubtful.

In addition, Perry also faces a series of lawsuits and legal actions based on his treatment of employees who have since left Capital Prep Magnet School.

And if as if that wasn’t enough, Perry and his eight fellow Capital Prep Magnet School employees must still face the issue of how there were able to spend the last two years working to develop Perry’s charter school company when, in fact, they were employed as full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education.  The issue goes beyond the problems associated with what could be criminal copyright infringement to whether these employees improperly spent time or public resources working to provide services that benefited Perry’s private company or, through that company, were designed to provide these nine individuals with present or future earnings.  As some lawyers have noted, a case of “theft of service” could arguably made against these public employees if they were engaged in private work on public time or if their work as public school employees was designed to guarantee them private income at a future date.

Check back for more on this breaking story.

Open letter to the Hartford Board of Education and Hartford Superintendent of Schools regarding Steve Perry

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To the members of the Hartford Board of Education and Hartford Superintendent of Schools

Re:  The Hartford BOE’s review and action related to Steve Perry ‘s apparent criminal infringement of the Hartford Board of Education’s copyrights. 

As I believe you know, at its meeting on November 17-18, 2014, the New York Board of Regents, upon the recommendation of the New York Commissioner of Education and his staff, approved granting Steve Perry and his private charter school management corporation an initial charter to open the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School in New York City.

The resolution read that, “In New York City, Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School, proposed as a replication of an effective magnet school in Connecticut, will partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem to provide middle- and high-school students with a rigorous, year-round college preparatory curriculum..”

The Board of Regents voted,

“That the Regents find that the proposed charter school: (1) meets the requirements set out in Article 56 of the Education Law, and all other applicable laws, rules and regulations; (2) will operate in an educationally and fiscally sound manner; (3) is likely to improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty of Article 56 of the Education Law; and (4) will have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the charter school, and the Board of Regents therefore approves and issues a charter and provisional charter to the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School for a term of five years in accordance with §2851(2)(p) of the Education Law.

You can find Mr. Perry’s application at: http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2014/November2014/1114p12a3.pdf

However, I submit that federal and state law is extremely clear on this matter and that all concepts, materials, curriculum, policies, procedures and any and all documents associated with the Capital Preparatory Magnet School do not belong to Mr. Perry or his private company, but actually belong to the Hartford Board of Education, and therefore, by definition, to the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut.

It is undeniable that the Hartford’s Board of Education’s policies make it clear that all work done by employees, in the course of their official duties, belongs to the Board.

Mr. Perry lacks the legal authority to “replicate” Capital Preparatory Magnet Schools and, as his application to the New York Board of Regents repeatedly states, the concepts, materials, curriculum, policies and procedures that he has proposed using come directly and exclusively from his work as a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education.

Furthermore, his application makes clear that his charter school management company, which includes himself and at least eight other full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education, will benefit financially from using the materials that actually belong to the Hartford Board of Education.  Perry’s newly approved charter grants him the ability to collect a 10 percent annual management fee that will mean millions of dollars being transferred to his company.

The use of copyrighted materials for personal or private gain is a criminal offense under federal law.

While appropriate complaints have been filed with the Hartford Ethics Commission, the Connecticut State Auditors and appropriate officials and agencies in New York State and New York City, the primary fiduciary responsibility to protect the assets of the Hartford Board of Education rests with the Superintendent and the Hartford Board.

I am writing to inquire what process you are using to investigate this matter and whether the issue will be raised and discussed at the Hartford Board of Education meeting on December 16, 2014.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this letter of inquiry.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Pelto

Hartford Courant story highlights bizarre effort to privatize Clark Elementary School.

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A Hartford Courant article entitled, Hartford School Board Asks Education Commissioner To ‘Impose’ Turnaround Plan reveals some of the contradictions and bizarre actions taken by the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, senior Hartford board of education officials, and corporate education reform industry advocacy groups in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant reports,

“Despite objections from the teachers’ union, the city board of education asked Tuesday night that state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor use his statutory power to impose a “turnaround” plan for Clark School that would include management by an outside group.

[…]

Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, contended that Clark teachers and parents were given inadequate information throughout the turnaround process, which she said amounted to “bullying and intimidation” in favor of Friendship.

“Unfortunately, the Hartford BOE just can’t allow the process to proceed as it should,” Johnson said.

Although senior staff in Governor Malloy’ State Department of Education have consistently denied that they had any role in pushing the effort to direct a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Courant now reports,

“The state had recommended Friendship, which operates four public schools in Baltimore in addition to its charter schools, to the turnaround committee that has been developing an improvement plan for the prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade-school on Clark Street…”

In the days leading up to last night’s Hartford Board of Education vote, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, his hand-picked board Chairman, Republican Richard Wareing, and the corporate education reform groups, Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART), Hartford Parents University and others tried to claim that the Clark School parents and community unanimously supported the move give the school to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

However, no such consensus ever existed.

In order to maintain the fantasy that the Clark School community unanimously selected Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Board of Education had to vote without allowing public input and systematically overlook information such as an email from the co-chair of the School Governance Council and member of the Clark Turnaround Committee who wrote,

“PLEASE VOTE NO TONIGHT,” adding, “our unified voice was to see other [school] models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us.”

And to make the charade complete, the Hartford Courant reported that Commissioner Pryor was up for his part of the whole scam when his spokesperson concluded,

“We’re grateful for the thoughtful dialogue and respect the local process in Hartford,” Donnelly said in a statement. “We will certainly take the views of the Hartford Board of Education, Mayor Segarra, and the Clark school governance council into account as we consider the potential paths forward.”

Thoughtful dialog?

Respect for the local process?

The truth is that State law requires that the district school turnaround process be driven by parents, teachers and the local community.

In the case of Clark Elementary School, that process was still on-going.

In fact, Clark School parents were supposed to go see schools in New York City last week and in Cincinnati this week, but those trips were suddenly cancelled.

Faced with the potential that their hand-picked private vendor would not be selected by the local community, the Mayor of Hartford, the Hartford Board of Education, corporate education reform industry advocacy groups AND the Malloy Administration conspired to concoct a strategy that effectively eliminated appropriate parent involvement.

Instead of following the law and doing the right thing, Malloy et. al. simply aborted the process and will use a no-bid contract to hand the out-of-state charter school management company a Hartford public school along with millions of dollars in state and local taxpayers’ funds.

The Clark Elementary School process has become a quintessential example of Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-public school, pro-privatization political agenda.

In this case the winner is a private out-of-state charter schools company, while the losers are the students, parents and teachers of Clark School along with the taxpayers.

You can read the Hartford Courant story here: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-clark-school-0409-20140408,0,3652613.story

UPDATED AT 7:30 PM – Malloy administration and Hartford Mayor team up to undermine American Federation of Teachers and Clark Elementary

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UPDATED with Hartford Board of Education vote.

With Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra leading the way, the Hartford Board of Education voted 7 -1 (With only Working Families Party Robert Cotto Jr. voting no) to ask Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to short-circuit the legislative mandated school turnaround process and give Friendship Charter School, Inc. a no-bid contract to take over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School.

During the course of the discussion, the Hartford Board of Education chairman read letters from Clark Parents in favor of the move to give Friendship their school but failed to read letters from parents who opposed the give-a-way program.  In addition, the Board of Education dismissed the first hand reports that the so-called 10-1 vote in favor of Friendship  Charter Schools by the Clark School Governance was actually a vote in favor of having Friendship as an option but WAS NOT a vote exclusively in favor of the out-of-state charter school company.

Perhaps the single most important development at the meeting was the fact that the Mayor and administers with the City of Hartford admitted that the Malloy administration was behind the Friendship and that the city was told that Clark would lose the funds state funds if the parents, teachers and local officials did not agree to the Commissioner’s demand.

The Malloy administration’s willingness to abuse its powers and its commitment to privatizing Connecticut’s public schools apparently has no bounds.

UPDATED with email to Hartford Board of Education from Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member)

When Paul Hozler, the Executive Director of the corporate funded education reform group Achieve Hartford! wrote to two high-ranking Hartford Board of Education administrators that he was concerned that,

“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT,” 

Hozler revealed far more than he probably meant to about the strategy behind the on-going effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to an out-of-state charter school management company called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

As reported yesterday on Wait, What?, in a hastily called special Hartford Board of Education meeting scheduled for late this afternoon, Mayor Pedro Segarra and his appointed majority on the Hartford Board are expected to vote in favor of a resolution asking Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to step in and unilaterally eliminate the involvement of the parents and teachers of the Clark Elementary School.

The rush to put an end to the legally mandated school turnaround process is part of a broader effort to ensure that Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. gets a lucrative state taxpayer funded management contract to take over the Clark Elementary School.

Sources inside the State Department of Education and within the Hartford School System now confirm what internal emails had already revealed.

Prior to the weekend of March 29-30, 2014, Commissioner Pryor, his turnaround team, the Hartford school administrators and a group of corporate education reform organizations were intending to allow the Clark parents and teachers to complete the legally mandated turnaround committee process.

The privatization proponents have envisioned a process in which the steps to reach consensus about Clark School would be achieved with a site visit to New York City and Cincinnati to provide the Clark School community with an opportunity to explore other turnaround options, in addition to Friendship Charter School.

However, growing concerns about the possibility that the Hartford Federation of Teachers (HFT) and the community organization known as Hartford Rising might convince parents to choose another management model for Clark Elementary School led the supporters of privatization to a last minute change of strategy.

Starting with a meeting on Sunday evening, March 30th, the public and private funded groups promoting Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. met with a small group of Clark parents to scare them into thinking that if they did not choose Friendship Charter Schools immediately, they would lose out on the Malloy administration’s promise to allocate $1.5 million to help enhance the Clark Elementary School.

The Clark School parents were told that the site visit to New York was postponed and that Clark parents needed to attend the State Board of Education Meeting on April 2nd and speak up in favor of additional funding for Clark. 

In an interesting twist, apparently Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART) and the other groups failed to cancel the trip and a coach bus actually showed up at the Clark School to take parents to see the New York City schools, but the bus was turned away when there were no parents to go on the trip.

At the Sunday meeting, and in the days that followed, the corporate education reform groups also planned a demonstration that is set for this afternoon in which Clark Parents were told to come to the school, put on tee-shirts and march to the Board of Education meeting to demand that the Hartford Board of Education vote to ask the Commissioner to unilaterally give the management contract to Friendship Charter Schools.

The fact that the demonstration planning has been going on for days is particularly noteworthy since the notice of the Board of Education’s special meeting wasn’t even released until 5pm last night.

The coordinated effort to give Friendship Charter School a no-bid contract is not only evident in the package of internal emails but the effort has now been independently confirmed by people directly involved in the process.

And perhaps the most disturbing development in this whole, bizarre charade is that it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to undermine the Hartford Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers despite state laws that not only allow, but require, the full participation of teachers and their union in the turnaround process.

Making the situation even more disgusting, in an effort to cover-up the privatization strategy, the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the corporate education reform groups are trying to make it appear that the whole effort to close down the turnaround committee process is simply a response to “service” the Clark parents.

As part of that strategy, Mayor Pedro Segarra released a statement earlier today claiming that the vote to request Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to stop the turnaround process and simply hand pick Friendship Charter Schools is at the request of the Clark Parents.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s statement was as follows,

MAYOR SEGARRA statement on parents decision regarding turnaround plan for clark elementary school

— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—

 (April 8, 2014) Today, Mayor Segarra made the following statement regarding the proposed turnaround plan for John C. Clark Elementary School:

“It has always been my belief that when a school partners with its families and community groups, children will stay in school longer and have a better chance of success.  A critical component of a providing a quality education is making sure the parents have a voice in the school process.  Parents who are actively involved in their children’s education are helping to build a foundation for their children’s future success.  The parents at Clark Elementary School have actively engaged in discussions surrounding the reform process for the school and have made their desires clear.

“The Clark School Governance Council voted unanimously in favor of partnering with the Friendship Public Charter Schools to assist in the school’s turnaround work.  It is disappointing to see that despite this clear recommendation from the School Governance Council, the Clark Turnaround Committee failed to reach consensus on a plan that would have provided the Clark Elementary School with the resources that are needed for a successful turnaround plan.  As Mayor, I support the School Governance Council’s recommendation to partner with Friendship Public Charter Schools to undertake this important work.

“I am asking that Stefan Pryor, Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut, exercise his statutory authority and contact Friendship to formally request that they reconsider being the lead partner with Clark Elementary School.”

###

Mayor Segarra’s claim that he is “doing it for the parents” is particularly insulting since Hartford parents that have been directly involved in the process have made it clear that the purported vote in favor of Friendship Charter Schools was not intended to be a vote in favor of giving the contact to Friendship Charter Schools but only a vote that Clark parents wanted Friendship Charter Schools as one of the options on the table as they explored other potential management models.

But as we have learned over and over again, when it comes to the privatization of our public schools, the truth is a dispensable commodity for the Malloy administration.

4 P.M. UPDATE:

Earlier today, Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member sent the Board of Education the following email;

Good Afternoon Mayor Segarra and Board Members,

My name is Lakeisha McFarland I am the PTO President, SGC member and turn around team committee member at Clark school. I feel it is necessary to inform you that the SGC 10-0 vote that everyone is talking and writing about was NOT to partner with Friendship but it was to ask them to return to the table to be considered as ONE of the options for Clark.  A couple of parents are being misled to change their voices completely. Our unified voice was to see other models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us as the option we must partner with. As the PTO President I am responsible for communicating with parents and the last meeting that was held we all agreed as a parent body that more options and other models needed to be visited.  It is unfair that an organization can change the minds of a couple and pretend that this is what the majority of parents want.  Despite the couple of parents that are being misled to believe that we must pick Friendship, parents at large still stand on our original demand of seeing more options other than Friendship. It is a sad day when an organization that is hired to get the consensus of the parents and stakeholders in the Clark community are doing the opposite and trying to deliver us to Friendship on a silver platter. Parents at Clark are asking you NOT to intervene in the process of the turn around team and PLEASE don’t take our voices away.

Sincerely,

Lakeisha

NEWS FLASH: Its official – choice means Friendship Charter School or nothing

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In a brazen effort to hand over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools of Washington D.C. and divert more scarce public funds to another out-of-state charter school management company, a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education has suddenly been called for tomorrow to approve a resolution “requesting” that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, use his authority to simply hand Clark Elementary over to Friendship Charter Schools without any further debate or discussion.

As reported in multiple blog posts here at Wait, What?, this extraordinary abuse of power has been playing out for the last few months.

The Clark School “turnaround” process has suddenly became a case study in how the corporate education reform industry really works.

And in this case, the concept of “school choice” has been corrupted to mean that Clark School parents, teachers and the greater community must accept Friendship Charter School as their new master or Commissioner Stefan Pryor will withhold $1.5 million that was allocated to improve the neighborhood school.

Of course, a large chunk of that “new” money will be used to pay for the “services” of Friendship Charter School.

Regardless of the political spin coming from the corporate education reformers, the truth is as follows;

When Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community were told that their school was going to be handed over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor…

The Clark parents said NO! – “We want Choices.”

And the Achievement First, Inc. proposal was defeated.

In response to this development, Commissioner Pryor, his senior staff, and high-ranking administrators for the Hartford School System decided that the new “choice” would be Friendship Charter Schools, a Washington D.C. based charter school management company.

Although the Clark parents continued to say – “We want Choices,” those in power decided “choice” is not the selection of multiple options but simply a decision of Friendship Charter School or nothing.

As internal emails, documents and first hand reports reveal, a strategy was developed by Pryor’s State Department of Education, Hartford Board of Education administrators and corporate education reform organizations to “persuade”  the Clark parents that handing their school over to Friendship was effectively their only choice.

To implement this political strategy of deception, state and city officials used a combination of public and private funds to pay for a campaign that was orchestrated and coordinated by a series of education reform groups including Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (H.A.R.T) and Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

The gory details will continue to leak out in the coming days, but the strategy reached its zenith today when these education reform groups handed out flyers instructing Clark Parents to meet late tomorrow afternoon at that Clark School, don tee-shirts and march to the Hartford Board of Education meeting to demand the Hartford Board of Education approve Friendship before the state withdraws the $1.5 million needed to help improve their school.

Gone is the discussion of providing Clark School parents with the range of choices they wanted to hear about.

Last week’s site visit to New York City that would have allowed Clark’s parents to examine other options was cancelled and will now not be rescheduled.

The group’s planned site visit to Cincinnati to look at other school options has suddenly disappeared, as well.

And the Clark School Governance Committee’s vote in favor of seeking multiple options has been “re-interpreted” as a vote for Friendship Charter School.

Check back for additional details as they become available…

But as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, the only thing that stands between them and control of another local Connecticut neighborhood school, its students and millions in taxpayer money that comes with it is the following resolution that will be taken up tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. by the Hartford Board of Education.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT: the Board hereby requests that the Commissioner exercise his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develop and impose a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark; and

BE IT THEREFORE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT: if the Commissioner exercises his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develops and imposes a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark then the Board will negotiate the financial impact of the plan with the exclusive bargaining units for Clark certified employees in accordance with Connecticut General Statute § 10-153S(c).

RECOMMENDATION That the Hartford Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to approve the resolution requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee.

You can also read more about this developing issue at the Real Hartford Blog – http://www.realhartford.org/2014/04/07/boe-to-vote-on-edu-colonialism-at-clark-school/

Clark Elementary School parents played like puppets

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As Wait, What? readers will recall, first came the effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company formed by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

When parents, teachers and the Hartford Federation of Teachers fought back, the backroom deal between Pryor, his State Department of Education staff, out-going Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and some of her senior staff collapsed.

But not to be outdone, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his aides refocused their Clark Elementary School privatization effort, this time looking to hand the Hartford Public School over to a Washington D.C. based charter school company known as Friendship Charter Schools.

A batch of internal emails recently acquired by Wait, What? reveals just how deep the conspiracy to play Clark’s parents goes.

The emails paint a disgusting and potentially even illegal effort to give a private company a no-bid contract to run a Connecticut public school, all at taxpayer expense.

The emails reveal that the fix was in for the Clark Elementary School and its students, parents and teachers long before anyone from Clark was involved in the process.

From the very beginning of their effort, Connecticut State Department of Education employee, Andrew Ferguson, has served as Pryor’s point person in the widespread effort to force Clark to “accept” Friendship Charter School Company as their new masters.

The emails also make clear that the strategy moved forward with the help of a number of senior Hartford Board of Education employees, including Superintendent Kishimoto.

On February 13, 2014, long before the Clark School Turnaround Committee had even begun the extensive process of assessing what would be the best solution to improve academic performance at their school, Andrew Ferguson and Oliver Barton, a Portfolio Director for the Hartford Board of Education, were already working on how best to insert Friendship Charter Schools successfully into the final plan.

Concerning an upcoming forum, Andrew Ferguson wrote,

“Do you want Friendship to attend?”

To which the City of Hartford’s Oliver Barton responded,

 “I don’t think we’re there yet….If we get enough of the committee to a readiness level, we could have them up to discuss how a partnership would actually work.

At the same time, investigative blogs published on Wait, What? started to shine a light on the growing conspiracy.  NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (February 10, 2014) and Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School (Feb 13, 2014).

In response to the 2nd Wait, What? post,  Kevin McCaskill, the Hartford Board of Education’s Director of School Design and Programming, wrote to Oliver Barton warning him,

“Jonathan Pelto again on the blog – talking about the CSDE’s attempts to privitize.”

To which Oliver Barton responded,

“Clark parents spoke with Vanessa at courant to disput blog claim that the model is predecided.  Should be in tomorrow, wed.” (Spelling mistakes are original parts of email)

Fears that the strategy wasn’t taking shape fast enough appeared just two weeks later when, on February 26, 2014, Paul Holzer, the Executive Director of Achieve Hartford! wrote to Oliver Barton and Kevin McCaskill.

Achieve Hartford! is the corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group dedicated to privatizing Hartford’s schools and implementing the corporate education reform industry’s political agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

In his email to the two Hartford Board of Education employees, Achieve Hartford’s Paul Holzer wrote,

“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT…”

And Holzer added,

“I just need to know from the District’s perspective how this is playing out against the game plan, so to speak.”

Taken in total, the various emails back and forth between the Malloy administration, the Hartford Board of Education employees, Friendship Charter School and outside education reform advocacy groups explain how hard these “public” officials have been working to force the Clark School community to accept their “destiny” of seeing their school handed over to a private corporation named Friendship Charter Schools.

The communications also reveal an utter disdain and disregard for Hartford’s teachers and especially for the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

And although the process raises serious ethical and legal questions about state and local public officials using their positions to steer public dollars to private corporations, the Malloy administration clearly believes that it has “won” the battle.

A sign of their arrogant sense of accomplishment could be seen just this week.  Although the future of Clark Elementary School wasn’t even on the recent State Board of Education’s agenda, a group of Clark Parents were persuaded to sign up and spoke “in favor” of the so-called “Friendship Charter School Partnership,” despite the fact that just a week earlier Friendship Charter had withdrawn their proposal to run Clark Elementary.

This latest move by Pryor, Hartford, Achieve Hartford! and Friendship Charter Schools is nothing short of a late breaking effort to isolate and undermine the role the Clark’s teachers and the guaranteed role that the Hartford Federation of Teachers is supposed to play in the turnaround process.

This package of emails is yet another reminder of just how committed the Malloy administration has become in their effort to silence parents, teachers and public school advocates as part of their ongoing effort to push through their corporate education reform industry agenda.

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

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