Malloy’s new charter schools – 1st up the Booker T. Washington Charter School in New Haven

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Time to review the facts surrounding Malloy’s new charter schools…

Number #1: The Booker T. Washington Charter School.

The Booker T. Washington School may very well be Connecticut’s first foray into using public funds to pay for what appears to be a religiously connected school.  (We’ll pretend for a moment that such a move is not unconstitutional).

According to the charter school application approved by Malloy’s State Board of Education yesterday, there is a rather unseemly and bizarre connection between the Booker T. Washington Charter School, the charter school management company known as Jumoke/FUSE Inc. and the Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

The application begins with the statement,

“The Booker T. Washington Academy is the brainchild of Reverend Eldren D. Morrison, Pastor of Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut (“Varick Memorial”)

The Governing Board of Directors for the Booker T. Washington Academy includes the following individuals,

  • Reverend Eldren D. Morrison: Founder of Booker T. Washington Academy, Pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut and New Haven, Community Leader
  • Jesse Phillips: Chief of Staff to Rev. Morrison at Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, CT, and Community Economic Advisor)
  • Stacia Morrison: Academic Assistant, Bridgeport Public Schools and First Lady of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut).

And on the next page of the application its states,  “Stacia Morrison is currently a member of the Board of Directors. She intends to apply for a staff position with the Academy and, if hired, will resign from the Board.”

The cost to Connecticut taxpayers to get the Booker T. Washington Charter School up and running over the next five years will exceed $27 million.

In addition, the taxpayers of New Haven will continue to pay for the transportation costs and special education costs of students attending the privately run Booker T. Washington Charter School.

A $27 million dollar public expenditure for the “brainchild” of a church minister and the school’s governing board will include the minister, his assistant and his wife … at least until she gets a  job at the school at which time she will resign her position on the governing board.

Interestingly no one on the State Board of Education even pressed the issue of the association between the school and a church or the notion that the founder’s wife will serve on the Board of Directors until she gets a state-funded job at the school.

For more read Wait, What? Post: Merging Church and State – The Booker T. Washington Charter School

 

The second rather unseemly and bizarre issue is that the new Booker T. Washington Charter School will be run by a charter school management company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc.

Just two years ago there was nothing even called FUSE Inc. and now the charter school management company has a senior corporate officer sitting on the Connecticut State Board of Education, was just approved to run its fourth school in Connecticut and it still had time to take over management of a public school 1,500 miles away in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

FUSE Inc. is better known as Jumoke Academy Inc.  Their initial charter school is in Hartford and is called the Jumoke Academy.

Like all charter schools in Connecticut, the Jumoke Academy has refused to take its fair share of English language learners or students with special education needs.

With the passage of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” law in 2012, Stefan Pryor used his new-found power to take over Hartford’s Milner Elementary School and give it to Jumoke Academy to manage via a no bid contract.

The agreement was struck so quickly that the state and Jumoke didn’t even have a signed contract until well into the new school year.

The deal was particularly strange since the Jumoke Academy had never had a non-English speaking student in its six-year history and yet was given control of Milner Elementary, a school in which approximately 40 percent of students didn’t speak English or went home to households in which English was not the primary language.

A review of the demographics of the two schools made it clear that Jumoke could not possibly have been the best management company to take over the Hartford neighborhood school.

Percent of Students not fluent in English Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 25% 0%

 

Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 39% 0%

 

Percent of Students with special education needs Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 11% 4%

 

To facilitate the expansion of his growing charter school company, Jumoke’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Sharpe, set up a holding company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc. and named himself the new company’s Chief Executive Officer.

Less than a year later, although the State Department of Education had no data about the level of success Jumoke/FUSE Inc. was having at Hartford’s Milner School, Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education gave Jumoke/FUSE, Inc. another no-bid contract, this time to take over the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.

In the meantime, Governor Malloy nominated Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke/FUSE Inc. to serve as a member of the State Board of Education — the very entity responsible for approving charter school applications and holding charter schools accountable.

And now the State Board of Education approved Jumoke/FUSE Inc.’s application to open the Booker T. Washington Charter School in New Haven.

But as tens of millions of public funds are diverted to this lucky company, the most interesting development of all may well be that while Jumoke/FUSE Inc. claims to be focused on operating schools in Connecticut,  their Booker T. Washington application failed to mention that just a few months ago, Jumoke/FUSE Inc. was able to get a contract from the Louisiana Recovery School District in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to take over a school there. [The Louisiana Recovery School District is the state entity that Paul Vallas ran before he made his way to Bridgeport].

Imagine, a charter school management company that has been given two no-bid contracts from the Malloy administration to run public neighborhood schools and still managed to get control of a school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

And although there is no data about how they are doing with their Connecticut schools or what time commitments they have made to their Baton Rouge school, not a single member of Malloy’s State Board of Education asked Jumoke/FUSE Inc. how it was going to have the time to open yet another charter school in Connecticut.

For more read Wait, What? blogs Friends in high places = lots of money! and The Malloy/Pryor Jumoke Charter School Gravy Train.

Merging Church and State – The Booker T. Washington Charter School

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Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education is expected to approve the New Haven charter school application proposed by Jumoke/FUSE Inc. at its meeting today.

The cost to Connecticut taxpayers over the first five years of the school exceeds $27 million.

In addition, the taxpayers of New Haven will continue to pay for the transportation costs and special education costs of students attending the privately run Booker T. Washington Charter School.

The application reveals the unseemly and bizarre connection between the Booker T. Washington Charter School, the charter school management company known as Jumoke/FUSE Inc. and the Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

The application begins with the statement,

“The Booker T. Washington Academy is the brainchild of Reverend Eldren D. Morrison, Pastor of Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut (“Varick Memorial”)

According to their application, the Governing Board of Directors for the Booker T. Washington Academy will include the following individuals,

  • Reverend Eldren D. Morrison: Founder of Booker T. Washington Academy, Pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut and New Haven, Community Leader
  • Jesse Phillips: Chief of Staff to Rev. Morrison at Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, CT, and Community Economic Advisor)
  • “Stacia Morrison: Academic Assistant, Bridgeport Public Schools and First Lady of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut).”

And on the next page of the application its states,  “Stacia Morrison is currently a member of the Board of Directors. She intends to apply for a staff position with the Academy and, if hired, will resign from the Board. “

A $27 million dollar public expenditure for the “brainchild” of a church minister and the school’s governing board will include the minister, his assistant and his wife … at least until she gets a  job at the school at which time she will resign her position on the governing board.

Aren’t there laws against this sort of thing?

Will State Board of Education over look conflicts of interest to approve more charter schools

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While Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s budget fails to properly fund public schools in Connecticut it does provide for an increase in the number of privately run charter schools.

This Wednesday, April 2, 2014, the Connecticut State Board of Education will meet to consider applications for new charter schools in Connecticut.

The list of applicants includes,

  • Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor School (Bridgeport) – See Application [PDF] 
  • Jumoke Academy Michael Sharpe’s Booker T. Washington Academy (New Haven) – See Application [PDF]
  • Stamford Charter School for Excellence (Stamford) – See Application [PDF] 
  • Great Oaks Charter School  (Bridgeport) – See Application [PDF]

Morgan Barth, an aide to Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor is the individual who is responsible for the State Department of Education Charter School review process and will be leading the discussion during the State Board of Education’s agenda item entitled, “Consideration of Charter School Applications.”

What isn’t clear is whether the members of the State Board of Education understand, appreciate or have even been informed about the significant conflicts of interest that exist with some of these applicants.

One of the leading applications for approval at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting is a new publicly funded charter school that is being proposed by Steve Perry.

As readers know, Steve Perry currently serves as the principal of Capital Prep Magnet School, a public school within the Hartford School System.

While failing to show up for his public school job  more than 20 percent of the time, Perry spent his time creating his own private company called Capital Preparatory Schools Incorporated.

It is that private company that is now trying to open a new charter school in Bridgeport.

According to Perry’s application, the “founding members” of his charter school are all full-time employees of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford although the application doesn’t explain how Perry and the other full-time employees of the City of Hartford will have the time to open and run a privately owned charter school in Bridgeport.

Leading Perry’s proposed “governing board” are Bridgeport’s Reverend Kenneth M. Moales, Jr. (Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and Love Christian Academy), Pastor Carl McCluster (Shiloh Baptist Church), and Reverend William McCollough  (Russell Temple CME Church).

Moales, of course, is the campaign treasurer for Mayor Bill Finch, the disgraced former Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and a member of the illegally appointed Board Education that was struck down and disbanded by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Kenneth Moales was originally appointed to Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education by the Malloy administration’s Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.

Perry’s application includes a letter of support from Mayor Bill Finch and Finch has been lobbying for the approval of Perry’s charter school.

The other primary proponent for Perry’s new school is Excel Bridgeport, Inc., the corporate funded education reform lobbying group that was created by Meghan Lowney and Nate Snow.

Snow serves as the director of the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and Lowney works for Steve Mandel, the billionaire corporate education reform industry leader who is also one of Governor Malloy’s biggest campaign contributors.

Nate Snow also serves as the Chairman of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and has worked closely with Pryor, Barth and senior staff at the State Department of Education to expand the TFA’s reach into Connecticut;s urban school districts.

However, the conflicts of interest and the perceived conflicts of interest associated with Steve Perry’s charter school and the other charter school applications go well beyond the information above.

Although it fails to show up in any of the documents associated with Steve Perry’s application, before becoming Pryor’s aide at the State Department of Education, Morgan Barth served as the principal for Achievement First Inc.’s Bridgeport Academy, another charter school in Bridgeport.

At the same time Morgan Barth also served on Excel Bridgeport Inc.’s Board of Directors.  Barth quietly resigned last year.

As part of its pro-charter school lobbing effort, Excel Bridgeport Inc. even featured its board member on their website:  See Excel Bridgeport Board Member Morgan Barth tonight on your TV.

During Barth’s tenure as a member of Excel Bridgeport’s Board of Directors, the corporate funded education lobbying group led the charge in favor of Mayor Bill Finch’s efforts to do away with Bridgeport’s elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by Finch.  Excel Bridgeport Inc. also lobbied extensively in support of Paul Vallas, Board Chairman Kenneth Moales, Jr. and the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport, including the very charter school that Barth was running.

As Excel Bridgeport wrote at the time, “ It’s amazing how high expectations can change the life path of a child. Keep up the good work AFBA!” [Achievement First Bridgeport Academy].

But Barth’s connection with charter schools and the expansion of charter schools goes well beyond his direct connection with those pushing Steve Perry’s Bridgeport charter school proposal.

Barth worked for Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s charter school management company, Achievement First, Inc., for more than a decade before becoming the Director of Pryor’s Office of School Turnaround.

For at least six of those years Barth taught illegally at Achievement First, Inc.

Despite repeated warnings from the State Department of Education that Barth was not certified and could not legally work in a Connecticut public school, Barth continued to teach and serve as an administrator for Achievement First, Inc.

Fortunately for Barth and Pryor in 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly changed the law and allowed charter schools to have up to 30 percent of their staff un-certified.  Barth was one of those un-certified individuals who continued to work for Achievement First, Inc. until he joined Pryor at the State Department of Education.

In addition to those issues, the complex interrelationships between Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Morgan Barth, Steve Perry, Michael Sharpe (Sharpe’s application to open the New Haven Booker T. Washington Charter School is also up for a vote on Wednesday) and other charter school proponents is extensive and far-reaching.

Just last month, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry and Michael Sharpe were part of the Love Christian Academy’s annual education conference.  The conference is sponsored by none-other-than Kenneth Moales and held at Moales’ church in Bridgeport.

While Moales was unsuccessful in trying to get approval to turn his private religious school into an all-boys publicly funded charter school last year he has, as noted, returned this year as the founding member of the “Governing Board” that will oversee Steve Perry’s new Bridgeport Charter Schools.

The advertising for last month’s conference read, “This year’s theme is educational leadership and will feature Rev. Al Sharpton, Capital Prep’s Founder Steve Perry and State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.”

One of the highlights of the conference was advertised as the parent workshops put on by Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the very group that is now advocating for Perry’s new school and the group that had Morgan Barth as one of its Directors.

Further blurring the lines, Steve Perry’s Hartford lawyer has recently become Kenneth Moales’ attorney as Moales tries to fight off a foreclosure action that seeks to take his church, home and cars for his failure to pay his mortgages.

And back in Hartford, after spending nearly four years pushing his corporate education reform industry agenda, Governor Malloy has decided to seek re-election and is now trying to persuade teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is going to transform himself into a supporter of public schools.

But the truth paints a very different picture.

When the State Board of Education meets this week to consider diverting even more taxpayer funds to charter schools the public will see, yet again, why Malloy is considered the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the  nation.

The Malloy/Pryor Jumoke Charter School Gravy Train

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Many of Connecticut’s public schools remaining significantly underfunded but for those looking for a case study about the growing privatization of public education in America need only look as far as Connecticut and the tenure of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.

Call it the Jumoke Academy Charter School Case Study.

First there as was a Charter School called Jumoke Academy.

Like all charter schools in Connecticut, Jumoke Academy refused to take its fair share of English language learners or students with special education needs.  While proponents of charter schools promised they would help reduce racial isolation, Jumoke Academy, like every other urban charter school was actually more racially isolated than the surrounding community.

And then, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his band of corporate education reform industry allies used Malloy’s new “education reform” law to take over the Milner Elementary School in Hartford and give it to Jumoke Academy using a no-bid management contract.  The new entity is called Jumoke at Milner.

Jumoke was given the management contract to run Milner despite the fact that approximately 40 percent of Milner’s students faced English language barriers or went home to households that didn’t  use English as their primary language AND JUMOKE HADN’T HAD A NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING STUDENT IN ITS SIX-YEAR HISTORY.

In addition, as a direct result of Jumoke’s policies, the charter school company had virtually no experience with students who required special education services.

But those problems didn’t stop the Malloy administration from handing over control of a public school to a private corporation.

Jumoke immediately got rid of the vast majority of the teachers who were part of the Milner School community.

Percent of Students not fluent in English Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 25% 0%

 

Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 39% 0%

 

Percent of Students with special education needs Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 11% 4%

 

Soon after Malloy’s Commissioner of Education brought in the private company to run Milner Elementary School, Jumoke’s Chief Executive Officer Jumoke Academy , Michael Sharpe, set up a holding company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc.  He named himself Chief Executive Officer of Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc. as well.

And the following year, despite no data about the level of success at Jumoke at Milner, Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) was given a no-bid contract to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport.  The decision to hand over the Dunbar School to Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) was made by Pryor, Bridgeport “Superintendent” Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales, Jr. who was then serving as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and had previously served as Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer.

Moales has been saddled with significant legal and financial troubles and has been facing a foreclosure lawsuit that seeks to take his church and all of its properties and assets including the house in which Moales lives, as well as, his Cadillac Escalade and Mercedes Benz.

Interestingly, soon after the deal went down giving Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School to Jumoke (FUSE Inc.), the Hartford attorney who set up and represents Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) became Moales’ lawyer.

In the meantime, Governor Malloy nominated Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) to serve as a member of the State Board of Education and the General Assembly approved the nomination.  Comer promised not to use her position to further the interests of FUSE, the company she serves as its COO.

But Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) is back, yet again.

This week the State Department of Education will start holding hearings on new charter school applications.  One application for a new charter school comes from New Haven where the school would be called the BOOKER T. WASHINGTON ACADEMY.

But as the application explains in one of its initial footnotes, “FUSE is the management organization hired by BTWA to oversee the daily operations of the Academy.  That is, while the schools is called the Booker T. Washington Academy, the public funds will actually flow to the private company known as Jumoke (FUSE Inc.).

As the next footnote goes on to explain, “At the beginning of each school year parents and scholars will receive a handbook that includes behavioral expectations and provides school procedures and policies. All documents labeled Jumoke Academy are attached as a representative model of FUSE drafted documents that will be adapted for the Academy.”

The proponents of this charter school application couldn’t even be bothered to paste the name of the school over the Jumoke Academy name.

What is clear is that FUSE Inc is the charter school management company that Jumoke Academy set up to divert tens of millions of public dollars away from Connecticut’s public schools and into its coffers.

What isn’t so clear is that while Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) suggests that its sole focus is on Connecticut, the Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) corporate executives have been hard at work ramping up their charter school gravy train well beyond the borders of the state..

With little fanfare and no publicity, late last year, FUSE managed to pick up a lucrative contract to take over Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Dalton Elementary School.

As the Advocate Newspaper of Baton Rouge reported last October,

“Some uninvited guests, including a member of the state education board, were allowed at the last minute Monday morning to sit in on presentations by charter school groups seeking space in public schools in north Baton Rouge, thereby averting a potential fight.

Carolyn Hill, who represents the area as part of the 8th District for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, was not happy she had not been invited, calling it “disrespectful.”

“We need people who reside in this area to be at the table,” Hill said.

Leaders of the Recovery School District organized the meetings, originally invitation-only, as that state agency decides which groups will land space in the seven schools RSD runs in north Baton Rouge.

Representatives from three charter management groups gave presentations on their school plans…The three groups that presented Monday were Family Urban Schools of Excellence, of Connecticut…”

Despite their lack of a track record beyond their original charter school and the new no-bid contracts they picked up from the Malloy administration, FUSE Inc. went on to capture one of the contracts from the Louisiana Recovery School District.  

The Louisiana Recovery School District is the entity that Paul Vallas ran for six years.  And, in the “small-world” department, Paul Vallas, of course, was the key player, along with Stefan Pryor, who decided to hand Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School over to FUSE, Inc.

While the public hearings are yet to be held on the New Haven Booker T. Washington Charter School, knowing their uncanny record of success with Governor Malloy, Stefan Pryor and the Corporate Education Reform Industry, the Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) executives must be salivating at the prospect that they will soon be tapping into tens of millions of dollars of additional Connecticut taxpayer funds.

For Martin Luther King, it wasn’t “bad” segregation vs. “okay” segregation.

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It was June 23, 1963 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading the Great March on Detroit, which has also been called “The Walk to Freedom.” Speaking to a crowd of more than 25,000 people at Cobo Hall in Detroit King said:

“For we have come to see that segregation is not only sociologically untenable, it is not only politically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Segregation is a cancer in the body politic, which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized. Segregation is wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity. Segregation is wrong because it is a system of adultery perpetuated by an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality. 

[…]

 “I think we all will agree that probably the most damaging effect of segregation has been what it has done to the soul of the segregated as well as the segregator.”

And King reserved some of his most powerful words for the segregation in the North where he said;

“No community in this country can boast of clean hands in the area of brotherhood. Now in the North it’s different in that it doesn’t have the legal sanction that it has in the South. But it has its subtle and hidden forms and it exists in three areas: in the area of employment discrimination, in the area of housing discrimination, and in the area of de facto segregation in the public schools. And we must come to see that de facto segregation in the North is just as injurious as the actual segregation in the South. And so if you want to help us in Alabama and Mississippi and over the South, do all that you can to get rid of the problem here.”

Dr. King did not differentiate between BAD segregation and segregation that was OKAY or that was acceptable.    

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made it clear that ALL segregation was bad.

But here we are 50 years later and multiple forms of segregation surround us.

Earlier today, Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry tweeted that “Dr. Martin Luther, Jr was a huge critic of US public ed.”

Proving that even Steve Perry and those of us who believe in the importance of public education can agree on something… Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge critic of US public education.

But to use King’s words to defend the corporate education reform industry’s effort to expand charter schools and support the privatization of public education is beyond disingenuous.

As King noted over and over again, in the North the problem of segregation was just as serious as in the South but it came in the form of de facto segregation, just as the Supreme Court had ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education.

De facto segregation remains one of the greatest threats to our public education system, our society and our future.

But Perry and his charter school allies couldn’t be more wrong when they imply that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would support their vision of education policy.

Every single one of Connecticut’s major charter schools is even more segregated than the school districts that they serve and as proof of their use of de facto segregation, every charter school, along with Perry’s own Capital Prep., fails to enroll or maintain their fair share of Hispanic students, students that aren’t fluent in English or students that go home households where English is not the primary language.

As the following chart clear show, segregation comes in many forms and some of the most serious segregation can found in Connecticut’s charter schools and schools like Capital Prep.

District/School % Hispanic % not fluent in English % from homes where English isn’t primary language

Hartford School System

49.7%

18%

39.7%

 

Capital Prep

21.7%

3.4%

13.9%

 

Jumoke Academy

3.9%

0.2%

 

Achievement First – Hartford

13.9%

6.7%

7.6%

     

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not distinguish between BAD segregation and segregation that was OKAY.

King never minced words.  He was an American Hero and an American Revolutionary.  He spoke the truth no matter the result and he paid for that with his life.

The stark reality is that as a nation and a society we have made little progress in achieving King’s Dream.

But as we grapple with that failure don’t let anyone fool you…As King said, segregation is segregation and schools that segregate against certain ethic groups or segregate against those who are in need of special educational services are failing to achieve King’s Dream just as much as those who segregate based on the color of a child’s skin.

In addition to discriminating against Latinos and non-English speaking students, Connecticut’s Charter Schools and schools like Capital Prep do just as bad, if not even worse, when it comes to discriminating against students who require some additional special educational services.

District/School % of students needing Special Education Services

Hartford School System

13.5%

 

Capital Prep

6.3%

 

Jumoke Academy

4.1%

 

Achievement First – Hartford

6.7%

 

 

 

Addressing the unfinished tasks laid out by Martin Luther King is everyone’s responsibility but let’s start with an honest assessment of what is really going on in Connecticut when it comes to the de facto segregation that is undermining the ethical and moral authority of our public schools.

Hartford’s Clark School parents, teachers and community fight back!

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The battle to fight off the “Hostile Take-Over” of Hartford’s Clark School is growing.

Last week Hartford Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto, announced plans that she wants to close Hartford’s Clark School and hand the building over to Achievement First, Inc., the larger charter school management company that already has one school in Hartford but was promised another by Mayor Pedro Segarra and the majority on the Hartford Board of Education.

This week, a Hartford Board of Education sub-committee heard from Superintendent Kishimoto, Achievement First, Inc. and the Clark School’s parents and students.

Despite growing opposition to the plan, Kishimoto is pushing the Hartford Board of Education to vote on her Clark School Closure proposal at its November meeting.

Meanwhile, despite the mounting evidence that Steve Perry’s claims of success at Capital Preparatory Magnet School are fraudulent, Perry and Kishimoto are still moving forward on plans to close another Hartford school and hand it over to Perry.  To date, Perry and Kishimoto have failed to identify what Hartford school they intend to take-over.

Back at John C. Clark, Jr. Elementary and Middle School, Hartford Public School teachers, para-educators, and classroom instruction support staff are joining parents in the fight to stop Kishimoto’s plan to destroy their neighborhood school.

A primary complaint about Kishimoto’s plan is that that not only has the Clark School been making progress in improving its academic performance, but the Superintendent’s actions violate Connecticut’s school governance council law.

Connecticut’s school governance law requires that local School Governance Councils (SGCs) be included in major policy decisions about the school.

But Hartford’s Superintendent completely failed to properly include Clark’s School Governance Council in this “bait and switch” maneuver.

Failure to properly include school governance councils was one of the items that got Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s faux Superintendent of Schools, sued earlier this year.

According to a recent American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter press release, Gloribee Gonzalez, a Clark School Governance Council (SGC) and Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) member explained that “It’s an insult to call our community school ‘failing’…Throwing the word around to justify a hostile take-over is not acceptable. And it dismisses all that we’ve accomplished by working together as a community.”

The press release reports that “Gonzalez’ comments refer to claims by district Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto that Clark was selected for “redesign” as a privately-operated charter due to prolonged failure to make necessary improvements. However, its students are performing above the minimum proficiency threshold permitted to allow targeting a school for “turn-around” under Hartford Board of Education policy. Additionally, Clark has been part of the city’s nationally-recognized Community Schools Initiative since 2011, enabling students and their families to receive “wrap-around services” from neighborhood non-profits.”

In an open letter to Hartford Board of Education members, Clark School Governance Parent Chair Millie Soto added that “We are frustrated and hurt by the disrespectful method and tone in which this ‘plan’ was presented.”

And according to the AFT-CT press release, Kimberly Daly, a Clark School teacher said that, “It feels like someone is trying to stick our community with a ‘scarlet letter…Calling us a ‘failing school’ to allow outsiders to take-over is no way to treat the community we serve. The students and their parents deserve better than that.” Daly is a member of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1018, and the union’s representative at Clark School.

The trauma now facing the students, parents and teachers at Clark School is reflective of a much bigger strategy on the part of the corporate education reform industry to close public schools and hand them over to private entities.

Massive school closure operations are underway in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, approximately 40 percent of all public school students are now being diverted into charter schools.

Here in Connecticut Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor have been using a variety of techniques to expand the reach of corporate charter schools.

In Hartford, the Jumoke Academy charter school was given control of the Milner School while in Bridgeport the Jumoke Academy was given control of the Dunbar School.

In both cases the charter school management company with no experience working with non-English speaking children was given schools with significant numbers of non-English speaking students.

Although charter school companies like Jumoke Academy and Achievement First, Inc. have been unwilling to take their fair share of students who face language barriers and children who have special education needs, Malloy and Pryor have been diverting millions of dollars away from public schools to finance charter school operations.

As the following two tables indicate, the Clark School situation would be one of the most egregious examples of this practice to date.  In fact, to even suggest that Achievement First, Inc. should take the place of the Clark School is an incredible insult, especially to the Latino community and to parents whose children need additional special education services.

The number of students coming from households where English is not the primary language.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 26% 8%
2010-2011 26% 5%
2009-2010 26% 5%

 

The percentage of students requiring special education services.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 18% 7%
2010-2011 16% 8%
2009-2010 14% 8%

 

Real Hartford Blog examines “bait and switch” with Clark School and Achievement First Inc.

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Despite significant public opposition to another Achievement First, Inc. school in Hartford, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland and a majority of the Hartford Board of Education voted to give Achievement First, Inc. a second Hartford school — but they did so without identifying where the new Achievement First, Inc. school would be.

The new Achievement First schools was part of a broader strategy on the part of the Hartford political leadership and the corporate education reformers to close existing neighborhood schools in Hartford and give the properties to charter school companies.  (A similar strategy has been used in Chicago and Philadelphia to destroy their public school systems).

Last week Hartford Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto announced that she was targeting the Clark School for closure and proposing that the space be given over to Achievement First, Inc.

Of course, Achievement First, Inc. is the larger charter school management company that was co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

Now the Real Hartford Blog highlights the fact that this move appears to be a true “bait and switch” maneuver since the implication all along was that the new Achievement First, Inc. school would be in Hartford’s South-end and not the North-end where Clark school is located.

Hartford’s North-end is already dominated by charter schools, with Achievement First, Jumoke Academy, the new Jumoke Academy at Milner and the charter like Capital Prep.

Although corporate education reformers love to talk about providing students with “school choice,” this latest effort to put another Achievement First, Inc. school in the North-end would mean that the children of Clark any remaining public school children would be provided “choice,” as long as their “choice” was a charter school.

You can read more of the details here in the Real Hartford Blog which is published at: http://www.realhartford.org/

Achievement First Proposed for South Side Now Eyeing a North End Neighborhood School

By Kerri Provost, October 27, 2013

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto — whose employment in this capacity with the Hartford Public Schools is over at the end of this school year and who has had her request to no longer be evaluated by the Board of Education granted — has angered a number of parents at the Clark School in the city’s North East neighborhood with the proposal that this preK-8 school be phased out and replaced by an Achievement First charter school.

Just a few blocks away on Vine Street, the Milner School, which had been shut down, redesigned, and re-opened previously, was given over to a different charter school management company in 2012. That time around, the same urgency was placed on the decision, though in that case, Kishimoto had missed the deadline for proposing school redesign. She missed it by five months. In the end, the Board of Education did not enforce the rules of the process, which besides contributing to the rocky start of Jumoke Academy at Milner, essentially disenfranchised parents. The school choice system in Hartford gives parents the sense of being able to choose where their children go to school, but when they select a school, only to have that school transformed after the fact, that choices is thrown away. This along with the continued practice of having more appointed than elected members on the Board of Education makes one wonder if the average Hartford resident is trusted to make decisions that impact their lives and children’s lives.

On Wednesday morning, Kishimoto met with the current principal of the Clark School, along with its School Governance Council to tell them she planned to begin the redesign process on this school.

On Thursday, members of the Board of Education were informed of this proposal via email.

Then, on Friday, there was a meeting for the Clark SGC and community, which was attended by David Medina, the Director of External Communications for the Hartford Public Schools. By those in attendance, children were reported to be teary-eyed over the news. Parents were not having it. Not even one bit.

Proposed Phases

If this proposal goes anywhere, the changes at Clark would begin in the 2014-2015 school year, with the fifth grade being operated by Achievement First, while other grade levels at Clark remain under Clark. In the 2015-2016 school year, Achievement First would additionally operate kindergarten, first, and sixth grade; in 2016-2017 the charter school would take over Clark’s second and seventh grade and the public school would close. She does not indicate what happens to the school’s third or eighth graders, but CRT would continue its work with the preschool segment at Clark School.

Though this time line for a phase-in gives everyone some time to adjust to these changes, the general decision to redesign with less than one year’s notice seems insufficient for the development of a well-thought-out plan.

Urgency?

One wonders where the urgency comes from if the community itself is not calling for this change.

In August, we learned that there was a push for Achievement First to open another school in Hartford.

At the time it was unclear if this would be in a new building entirely, or if this would be shared with another school. By what was said at the Board of Education meeting at the end of August, there was no indication this Achievement First school would be located anywhere except in the city’s south end. Schools reported to be looked at included Burns (195 Putnam), Burr (400 Wethersfield), and MD Fox (470 Maple). State Representatives Ed Vargas and Minnie Gonzalez both attended that meeting and spoke against the creation of a new Achievement First school; Gonzalez said that if the BOE thinks about touching Burns, she would go door-to-door in her district to activate voters.

Now, after Achievement First has received its approval from the Board of Education, it has set its sights on the city’s north end, on the Clark School.

Test Scores

The CMT scores from this school, while not outstanding, do not raise red flags either.

In reading, 37.5% of the school’s third graders tested at/above proficiency in 2013. Compare this to 11.1% at Jumoke at Milner Academy; 15.9% at Burns; 49.1% at MD Fox; 17.9% at Wish; 49.3% at Burr.  Additionally, the average in this area for the Hartford Public Schools was 51.6%.

In writing, 65.8% of Clark’s third graders were at/above proficiency in 2013. Compare this to 20.6% at Jumoke at Milner Academy; 31.4% at Burns; 62.3% at MD Fox; 42.9% at Wish; 67.9% at Burr. The average in Hartford for 2013 was 68.1%.

For 2013 math scores, 50% of Clark’s third graders were at/above proficiency. Compare this to 10% at Jumoke at Milner Academy; 22.7% at Burns; 31% at Wish; 62.7% at Burr. The average for the Hartford Public Schools was 59.5%.

Next

It’s reported that the superintendent will be meeting with parents at the Clark School on Monday, October 28th.

There is a special meeting of the Board of Education on Tuesday, October 29th to discuss both the site for Achievement First Academy II and the “replication” of Capital Prep Magnet School’s model, also controversial, in a workshop session. This meeting begins at 4:30pm in the MHIS Conference Room at plaza level, 260 Constitution Plaza.

A Board of Education workshop will take place on November 6th — one day after the Board of Education election — to further discuss proposed new school/redesign models. This will be held at Jumoke at Milner Academy, 104 Vine Street.

The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for November 19th.

http://www.realhartford.org/2013/10/27/achievement-first-proposed-for-south-side-now-eyeing-a-north-end-neighborhood-school/

The State Department of Education’s NetStat to the rescue!

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When in doubt, purchase a new data management system, give it a name that has nothing to do with education, hire more consultants and then hold as many meetings and “training sessions” as possible.

All paid for, or course, by the generous taxpayers of Connecticut (while school districts across the state go without adequate funding).

Here in Connecticut, the corporate education reform industry has become a caricature of itself.

This very afternoon, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Morgan Barth, his uncertified “Division Director of the Turnaround Office,” will be hosting the first “NetStat” meeting of the year with representatives of Pryor’s 11 Commissioner’s Network Schools.

The State Department of Education’s delegation will include the cadre of out-of-state consultants that arrived with the $1 million contract with the politically connected Mass Insight Company.

At last word, even Governor Malloy is planning to make an appearance at today’s meeting.

At today’s NetStat meeting, Pryor and Barth’s goal is to spotlight “the schools with ‘best-in-class’ results” which is more than a bit odd considering that half the schools have only been members of the Commissioner’s Network for one year and the other half just became Commissioner’s Network schools this past month.

But as Morgan Barth, the former teacher who couldn’t bother to become certified wrote in a recent memo, “We’ll hear many stories at NetStat including one from a dynamic duo – Karen Lott and Marilyn Taylor – respectively the principals of Milner and Dunbar. In visiting both schools I was impressed with the positivity and structure of the school culture/climate.”

Impressed with the positivity and structure of the school culture/climate?

Apparently Barth remains a big fan of the no excuses, no talking, march in a single line, hands at your sides, detention for wearing the wrong colored belt or not keeping your eyes on the teacher school climate approach.

And what a surprise that the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. (Stefan Pryor) and the former principal of an Achievement First, Inc. school (Morgan Barth) are bringing together schools from around the state so that they can “learn” about best practices from two privatized, “no excuses” schools that have been taken over by the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school chain.

It must be especially convenient since the COO of FUSE/Jumoke is a member of the State Board of Education, thanks to Governor Malloy, and she will probably be in attendance thanks to her role as that company’s leading voice in their expansion efforts.

Why not just be a bit more transparent and entitle the workshop; The Malloy Administration’s dedication to privatizing public education in Connecticut.

According to a copy of today’s agenda that was posted on the web, “Attendees will receive data packets for their schools, containing current and historic data for a universal set of leading and lagging indicators used to measure school turnaround.”

They’ll then spend that day analyzing the data using a “3-step data protocol” while “The Turnaround Office will present an 8-step change management process used to drive organizational effectiveness and improvement.”

The Bottom Line?

“School teams will learn more about the vision for and expansion of the Commissioner’s Network during the upcoming school year.”

Meanwhile, we are one hundred days into the school year and the same “Turnaround Office” has still failed to process all of the Year Two Alliance District Grants leaving at least a dozen school districts without the money they were promised by Governor Malloy and the General Assembly to help “turnaround” their schools this year.

And one of the towns left twisting in the wind?

Winchester, Connecticut.

The very community that reported this week that it might have to close its schools due to a lack of funds.

But no worries…

With the first NetStat meeting of the year being held, solving Connecticut’s school funding problem can’t be far behind.

Child Abuse in the form of the “No Excuses” education model

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The new Jumoke Academy at Dunbar (AKA The Paul Dunbar School, A FUSE Family Urban Schools of Excellence) recently posted job announcements that it was looking for four new teachers.

Putting aside why Jumoke, the charter school management company that was hired to take over and run the Dunbar elementary school is looking for four new teachers, over a month into the new school year, the job posting announces that the charter school company wants educators who will “sweat the small stuff” and are committed to “embracing the challenges facing urban schools with a mantra of ‘No Excuses’ and a willingness to do ‘Whatever it takes.’”

In this case, the phrase “sweat the small stuff” is a euphemism that explains that anyone unwilling to implement Jumoke’s “get tough, ”No Excuses” education model need not apply.

The “No Excuses” approach to education has become a rallying cry for the corporate education reform industry.

Many parents, teachers and proponents of schools, education and learning might mistakenly think the term “no excuses” describes the obligation society, government, schools and parents have to ensuring that every child in America gets a quality education.

But the term “No Excuses” is really a placeholder for a militaristic, highly disciplined, autocratic system in which children are forced to understand that discipline, conformity and following rules is the fundamental cornerstone that leads to academic achievement.

The adherents of the “No Excuse” model believe that the best route to creating safe, healthy and productive school environments is to ensure that children don’t deviate from the rules and that the price of non-compliance is punishments that are so disproportionate that the children  learn to comply or leave the school for good.

The fact that we are dealing with children or that the United States is constitutionally bound to the principle of individualism rather than fascism or collectivism is nothing more than a concept to be overlooked.

Most “No Excuses” schools actually lose more than half their students along the way.

At the Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools, CEO Eva Moskowitz has created a system in which, “New students are initiated at ‘kindergarten boot camp,’ where they get drilled for two weeks on how to behave in the “zero noise” corridors (straight lines, mouths shut, arms at one’s sides).”

Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor and owns and operates charter schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island utilizes the draconian techniques of excessive school suspensions and a “re-orientation” room.

As we learned earlier is year, “The incidence of suspension of kindergartners and first graders at Achievement First Hartford Academy last year was an estimated nine times the rate in Hartford public schools.

Put another way, an estimated 11.7 percent of kindergartners and first-graders at Achievement First Hartford Academy were suspended last year an average of 5.4 times each. In the Hartford public school system, 3.3 percent of kindergartners and first-graders were suspended an average of 2.1 times.”

At the time, Achievement First’s Dean of School Culture told the Hartford Courant that they instituted, “a very high bar for the conduct of our students and that’s because we’ve made a promise to our scholars and our families that we are going to prepare them for college.”

It figures it would take someone with the title of “dean of school culture” to come up with a phrase that brings together kindergartners, a high bar of conduct and preparing them for college.

At these “No Excuses” schools, the strategies to force conformity follow the children all the way through their primary and secondary education.  At Achievement First’s Hartford high school, “Rolling one’s eyes at a teacher will get a freshman sent to the school’s Reorientation Room where…’they get the extra culture they need.’”

As parents and children at Bridgeport’s “new” Dunbar School will come to find out, the discipline policies at the schools run by FUSE/Jumoke are similar in scope to those used by Achievement First, Inc.  Jumoke also relies on the suspensions and a “reorientation” room, although at Jumoke it apparently goes by a different name.

Even the most casual observer will recognize that the “No Excuses” education model drifts into the realm of what reasonable people would call child abuse.

Perhaps the most disturbing point of all is that while people like Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski tout the “No Excuses” model, not one of them would ever suggest that such a model be used in Connecticut’s suburban communities.

It is quite a commentary that here we are in the 21st century and  we’ve got “mainstream” political leaders who promote policies that are essentially child abuse….as long as those policies only apply to children who are attending urban schools that serve our minority and poor students.

Charter Schools and the systematic discrimination of special education students

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Most charter schools are failing to take their fair share of students who require special education services

You can always count on Connecticut resident, fellow blogger and public education advocate, Jonathan Kantrowitz, to explore the important issues with a sophisticated, fact-based approach.

In a new blog post entitled, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” Jonathan Kantrowitz examines data coming out of New York City about the failure of charter schools to take and keep students who need special education services.

Kantrowitz writes;

This studyfrom the Center on Reinventing Public Education, uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:

  • Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
  • The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education—and less likely to keep them there.
  •  The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
  • There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.

Given the complex factors revealed by the study, the report cautions against simplistic policy solutions like quotas and enrollment targets. Instead, policy attention might be more usefully spent identifying and replicating effective academic or behavioral interventions that allow schools to declassify students with mild disabilities, and investigating why parents of students with special needs are not choosing charters early on.

You can read his full blog post here: http://educationresearchreport.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-gap-special-education-and-new-york.html

What is clear is that many charter schools want to claim the mantle of being public schools, but the majority fail to take their fair share of students who need special education services, just as they fail to take their fair share of students who need extra help when it comes to learning the English language.

There are undoubtedly charter schools that understand the fundamental role of public schools and do make a real effort to provide educational opportunities to the full range of students, but those charter schools are outliers compared to the vast majority of  their colleagues.

As another New York City study found;

“…[NYC] charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of special education students than do district schools. But more importantly, charter schools do not enroll the same kind of special ed students as the district schools. While special education enrollment in charters grew over the last year, the special ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their special ed counterparts at neighboring district schools.

Practically none of the 57 charters we reviewed enroll “self-contained” students, the highest category of need, who must be taught in separate classrooms with one teacher for every 6 or 12 students. Very few enroll “collaborative team teaching” students, who are educated in mixed classrooms with two teachers, one a specialist. These two higher-need categories of special education students by and large attend district schools. Students who require the less-intensive “related services,” such as speech or physical therapy, are by far the most prevalent special education type in the charters. ”

Similar observations have been made in Connecticut.

Even at the most basic level, most Connecticut Charter Schools consistently fail to educate their fair share of students who need special education services

Here is the latest available data on students needing special education services in selected district schools in Connecticut versus selected charter schools in Connecticut

District/School 2010-2011 % Special Education 
Hartford Public Schools 12.5%
AF – Hartford Academy 7.7%
Jumoke Academy* 2.3%
New Haven Public Schools 10.8%
AF – Amistad 5.4%
AF – Elm City* 4.0%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.1%
AF-Bridgeport 7.3%
Park City Prep 8.4%
Bridge Academy 12.2%

(*) 2010-2011 report not on file, data is 2009-2010

While charter school funding is the fastest growing area of Governor Malloy’s education budget, the evidence is clear that Connecticut’s charter schools are consistently failing to provide educational opportunities to special education students and students who need extra help with the English language.

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