Cuomo to Teachers: Drop Dead (Could just have easily come from Malloy)

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Friend and fellow education blogger Peter Greene posted a powerful piece on his blog over the weekend entitled, Cuomo to Teachers: Drop Dead.  Peter’s commentary piece focused on the recent pronouncements of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo who has pledged to use his second term to destroy public education in New York.

Sadly, Cuomo’s words aren’t very different than Governor Dan Malloy’s actions.  No matter how much Malloy and his supporters spin it, he remains the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose ending teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in Connecticut’s poorest schools.  While Malloy and his supporters focused on his so-called “apology” for claiming teachers need only show up for four years to get tenure, he never publicly said his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position was a mistake.

And in fact, it was less than twelve hours after he declared victory in November, that Malloy’s Education Commissioner and Malloy’s political appointees to the State Board of Education voted to approve 8 more non-unionized charter schools —- at the very same time the Malloy and his administration continue to refuse to provide Connecticut’s public schools with a Constitutionally adequate amount of money.

As you read Peter Greene’s piece on Cuomo, recall Malloy’s unprecedented assault on teachers and the teaching profession and the failure of the Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly to derail Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and counter-productive initiatives on teacher evaluation and the massive expansion of the Common Core Standardized Testing scheme.

Cuomo to Teachers: Drop Dead

If you have not yet seen the letter from Cuomo aid Jim Malatras to ed leaders Tisch and King, you can find a copy right here. If you want to see just how direct and ugly an attack by a governor on his own state’s public education system can be, you should read it. If you are a teacher in New York, you should read it twice.

I’ll hit the highlights, not because the letter’s particularly hard to parse, but because some things are just so ugly, they need to be held up to the light as much and as often as possible.

It opens with the observation that New York’s low success percentages for proficiency on the Big Test are simply “unacceptable” and therefore Cuomo will make sure that the cut scores are set at more acceptable levels as determined by educators and not politicians. Ha! Just kidding. He’s going to pretend that those proficiency numbers represent something other than political gamesmanship by the governor’s office.

Speaking of proficiency, the next paragraph opens with this sentence:

Governor Cuomo believes in public education it can open up unlimited opportunity to our students.

I believe Malatras he is not a careful proofreader. I sympathize. I am the king of speedy mistakes, as my readers can attest. But I’m not on the state payroll, writing documents of record.

Malatras goes on to say that “virtually everyone” thinks the system must be reformed and improved, and I wonder if he’s counting the people who believe that reformation and improvement start with getting Cuomo’s grabby hands off public education’s neck. But no– three guesses where efforts to fix schools must be focused:

Part of the package will be to strengthen one of our most important professions teaching. While some seek to demonize teachers, Governor Cuomo believes the exact opposite wanting to reward excellence in teaching and by recruiting the best and brightest into the profession. 

(Yes, the letter is riddled with mistakes. No further comment). Those damn teachers. those stupid incompetent teachers that Cuomo loves so very much.

Malatras goes on to note that the governor doesn’t have a lot of control over education, and that this represents a wise and rational distribution of power in running a state. Ha! No, kidding again. Cuomo doesn’t have that kind of power, so he’s going to use the budget process to just take it. He’s asking Tisch and King for their input on Cuomo’s ideas as matter of policy (leave the politicking to the legislature). Here are Cuomo’s Twelve Awesome Thoughts, with a bit of translation. You’re welcome.

1) The teacher evaluation system sucks because it’s not failing enough teachers. How can we jigger it so that more teachers are failed by it?

2) It’s too hard to fire bad teachers. Hard work is hard. How can we make it less hard to get rid of the teachers that we’ll be failing more of once we straighten out the evalouation process?

3) How can we make becoming a teacher harder? Because if we make it really hard to become a teacher, then teachers will be better. Can we give them all a competency test? Recruiting best and brightest would be cool.

4) Cuomo would still like to get merit pay up and running, because the fact that it has never worked anywhere doesn’t change his love for how it would reduce payroll costs. Because recruiting teachers (point 3) goes better when you tell them they might get well paid if you feel like paying them more.

5) Could we make the pre-tenure period longer, and could we make their certification temporary so that they have to get re-approved every couple of years. We need to make them stop thinking of teaching as a lifetime career, because that’s how you recruit the best and the brightest.

6) What can we do about schools that suck? Particularly Buffalo, because we would really like to accelerate the hand-over of Buffalo schools to charter operators, who make much better campaign contributions than low-paid teachers.

7) Charters? Charters charters charters. Can we just increase the cap in NYC? A whole lot?

8) Education special interests have resisted using courses delivered by computer. Could we just go ahead and do that anyway? Because one college instructor with a computer = 143 high school teachers we could fire.

9) What about mayoral control? It looked like a great idea in NYC until they elected some bozo who didn’t get the deal with charters until Cuomo had the legislature rough him up a bit. Mayoral control is better than a damn elected board, but mayors are also elected and those damn voters are a pain in my ass.

10) Should we combine some of the 700 school districts in New York? (This might be the only thing on the list that isn’t either evil or stupid. I would make fun of 700 different school districts in New York, but I’m in PA and we aren’t any better).

11) The damn regents are appointed by the legislature. Do you think we should fix that, because having to work with people not under his direct control is a real problem for the governor.

12) We’re about to replace Dr. King. Is there a way to have a transparent process to replace him with someone I pick?

Oddly enough, the Cuomo office has no interest in looking at rampant testing, craptastic canned curriculum, or widely unpopular standards. I would have said that it was hard to blame these not-beloved-by-teachers programs on teachers, but since Rudy Giuliani found a way to blame the death of Eric Garner on teachers, I’m going to accuse Cuomo of slacking on this department.

Several weeks ago Governor Cuomo said that improving education is thwarted by the monopoly of the education bureaucracy. The education bureaucracy’s mission is to sustain the bureaucracy and the status quo and therefore it is often the enemy of change. The result is the current system perpetuates the bureaucracy but, fails our students in many ways.Tackling these questions with bold policy and leadership could truly transform public education and finally have it focus on the student as opposed to the bureaucracy. 

Because having power centered in places that aren’t the governor’s office is just, you know, bad.

In a charming coda, Malatras notes that King might now give even better advice now that he is unshackled from the political demands of his office, because you know that John King– he was always so constrained by his deep concern about public opinion, and his willingness to listen to the public just tied him up. Now as a federal bureaucrat hired outside any sort of approval system, he’ll be free to disregard public opinion entirely. Because A) that’s a good thing and B) it’s not at all how he conducted himself in his New York job.

Man, I just hope all those New York teacher union officials who carried Cuomo’s water throughout the primary season are really enjoying this unfettered direct attack against the profession and the public schools. Tisch and King are supposed to get back to Cuomo with their advice on how best to kick New York’s teachers in the teeth by December 31, so to all my NY teacher neighbors, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays, because 2015 will bring open season on public school teachers in the Empire State.

Here in Connecticut, Malloy’s intentions will become clear in the coming weeks.  Who will he appoint as Commissioner of Education and will he has the members of the State Board of Education to step down so that he can appoint some people who have not sold their souls to the corporate education reform industry.

As Peter Greene says to his NY teacher neighbors, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays, because 2015 will bring open season on public school teachers in the Empire State.”

The same is true here in Connecticut.  CT teachers; if we know anything about Malloy and his inner circle of anti-teacher, anti-public education corporate education reform industry groupies we can safely say – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays, because 2015 will bring open season on public school teachers in the Constitution State.

CEA hires another former Dem. Legislative Leader who helped push through Malloy’s corporate education reform legislation

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In an article entitled, “Former House Speaker lands job at teachers’ union,” The CT Mirror’s Jacqueline Rabe Thomas has confirmed the rumors that, “Christopher G. Donovan, the former speaker of the state House of Representatives, has been hired by the state’s largest teachers’ union — the second former legislative leader to land a job at the Connecticut Education Association this winter.”

Donovan, who is the former Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives will be joining former President of the Connecticut State Senate, Don Williams, at the Connecticut Education Association.

Both Donovan and Williams played key roles in helping Governor Malloy pass his ant-teacher, pro-charter school legislation in 2012.

Malloy’s bill not only sought to denigrate and undermine public school teachers and the teaching profession but it mandated the unfair, inappropriate and counter-productive teacher evaluation program that kicks in this year.

According to the CT Mirror story, “Mark Waxenburg, the executive director of the union, said during an interview that Donovan’s background as an organizer for the community college union made him an attractive candidate. The union declined to say how much Donovan would be paid.”

Interestingly, Donovan (and Williams) also supported Malloy’s proposal to combine the Connecticut State Universities and Community College System, a move that is widely credited with severely damaging the 17 public colleges and universities that make up the new Board of Regents System.

The CT Mirror noted that, “Donovan — the house speaker from January 2009 to January 2013 — left the General Assembly after 20 years in office to run for congress in Connecticut 5th district. His campaign crashed after federal authorities indicted two of his highest-ranking campaign officials, among others, on charges that they conspired to hide contributions from businesses hoping to derail legislation.”

In what appears to have been a question about whether their political connections got them the  jobs, the CT Mirror reported that the CEA executive director explained that,  “the former leaders’ qualifications, not their former title in the General Assembly, is what earned them the jobs.”

“We don’t really place any extended value on a person because they served in public office. We look at what they are able to do relative to their history,” Waxenberg told the CT Mirror.

You can read the full CT Mirror story at:  http://ctmirror.org/former-house-speaker-lands-job-at-teachers-union/

Courant weighs in –”State Must Curtail Deceptive Borrowing”

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A Wait, What? post last Monday entitled, “The State Budget Gimmick to End all Budget Gimmicks,” followed up on Keith Phaneuf’ CT Mirror story “Is Malloy poised to put much of the budget deficit on CT’s credit card?

The articles outlined Governor Malloy’s inappropriate use of “bond premiums” to use the state’s credit card to cover the State’s operating expenses and hid budget deficits.

In his piece, Phaneuf’s explained,

 “Malloy relied heavily on bond premiums during his first three years in office, using more than $160 million to close budget deficits or to bolster the emergency reserve, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund.  Phaneuf added, “According to records from the treasurer’s office, the state had taken $41 million in bond premiums through the first four months of the fiscal year. The treasurer’s office said the state took another $37.7 million premium this week on $300 million in new bonds. That means more than $78 million has been added to the budget’s debt service line item since the fiscal year began.”

The purpose of the Wait, What? article was to try and put the deceitful fiscal move into plan language.

Now the Hartford Courant has joined the effort to shed light on Malloy’s actions in an editorial entitled, “State Must Curtail Deceptive Borrowing.”  The Courant wisely observers,

Here’s a worthwhile idea that may hinder if not stop the inappropriate use of bond premiums — a form of borrowing — to cover operating expenses in the state budget.

Republican state lawmakers Vincent Candelora and Len Fasano intend to introduce legislation that would require the treasurer to report monthly to the General Assembly on all bond premiums taken and on the interest rates involved.

Regular reporting ought to shine some much-needed sunlight on a practice that can add another layer of deception and expense to state borrowing.

It works this way: The state sometimes when issuing bonds pays a higher interest rate than originally planned in return for a premium. That’s extra money the state might use to cover the cost of issuance (a legitimate use) or to retire high-interest debt or, usually in bad times, to support the state’s operating budget — running the agencies day to day on borrowed money.

Of course, debt service must be paid on the premium, which makes the borrowing expensive.

[…]

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is no stranger to bond premiums. He used more than $160 million to close budget deficits and bolster the rainy day fund during his first three years in office.

Although Mr. Malloy recently found $48 million in spending cuts to partially bridge the $100 million projected budget deficit for the current fiscal year, Republican legislators speculate that he’ll resort to bond premiums to cover the rest.

The Malloy administration hasn’t ruled out the use of premium money.

Mr. Malloy, who has become a prodigious borrower, should resist the temptation. Find more budget reductions. It’s time for discipline.”

When Dan Malloy was running for governor in 2010, he said, “Increasing debt makes responsible budgeting less possible… And, it is simply irresponsible to leave more and more debt for future generations.”

However, despite his campaign pledge, since becoming Governor, Dannel Malloy has been engaged in a excessive borrowing spree that has irresponsibly put more and more debt on the taxpayer’s of the state and our children.

The editorial from the Hartford Courant is spot on and extremely timely.

Regent President Gray’s “gag-order” on out-going provost must not be allowed to stand

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In a world in which we probably shouldn’t find anything surprising, the fact that the Separation Agreement  between the Board of Regents and out-going provost Michael Gargano includes a “gag order” is truly revolting.

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents are presently in the midst of an extremely controversial effort to “Transform” Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.  The Regents paid a leading out-of-state corporate education reform industry consulting group $1.8 million to put together a “road-map” that has been harshly criticized and, if implemented, would do tremendous damage to the future of Connecticut’s 17 state universities and colleges.

In recent weeks Regent President Gray has been engaged in an attempt to claim that the Transform CSCU 2020 Plan is a product of an open and thoughtful process, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The entire process to develop Transform CSCU 2020 was hardly open, and most telling of all, the Executive Committee overseeing the development of the plan doesn’t even include representatives from the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Connecticut’s public state universities and colleges.

Not only does the Transform CSCU 2020 Plan deserve a full and complete public airing, but considering how important the institutions are to Connecticut and its citizens; the plan deserves a legislative hearing by the General Assembly’s higher education committee.

But as if to reiterate the fundamental problem with President Gray and Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Board of Regents, it turns out that the Separation Agreement with the Board of Regent’s outgoing provost Michael Gargano includes a clause forbidding Gargano from making “any derogatory or defamatory statements about his employment with the BOR [Board of Regents], about any previous or current employee or officer of the BOR, or about any previous or current member of the BOR.”

As if that wasn’t incredible enough, the Separation Agreement includes a clause seeking to keep the document secret from the public.

Regent President Gray is a public employee and the Board of Regents is a public agency.

Their effort to block public access to information that belongs in the public domain is reprehensible.

To forbid the out-going provost from talking about why he left his position, about his experience as the provost, or his opinion of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan is not only unethical, but it flies in the face of Connecticut’s once historic position on open government.

Gray and the Board of Regents appear to be trying to use the cover of a personnel file exclusion to circumvent Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws, or worse, these public officials are intentionally trying to block information that rightly belongs in the public arena.

Governor Malloy should demand that the Board of Regents immediately remove the gag order.

If Malloy won’t take that action, the Connecticut General Assembly should step in and ensure that the public’s right to public information is not infringed upon by the outrageous actions of Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents.

The CT Mirror has posted a copy of the separation agreement.

The State Budget Gimmick to End all Budget Gimmicks

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Governor Malloy has been borrowing money – called “bond premiums”  – to balance Connecticut’s state budget.

But what the heck are bond premiums?

On Black Friday, the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf wrote an article entitled “Is Malloy poised to put much of the budget deficit on CT’s credit card?”  The news story highlighted the fact that Governor Dannel Malloy has repeatedly used “bond premiums” to mask Connecticut’s debt and he appears to be poised to do so again.

As Phaneuf writes,

Malloy relied heavily on bond premiums during his first three years in office, using more than $160 million to close budget deficits or to bolster the emergency reserve, commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund.”

And the article adds,

“According to records from the treasurer’s office, the state had taken $41 million in bond premiums through the first four months of the fiscal year.

The treasurer’s office said the state took another $37.7 million premium this week on $300 million in new bonds. That means more than $78 million has been added to the budget’s debt service line item since the fiscal year began.”

But explaining what “bond premiums” are is no easy feat.

So please stick with me here – what follows is an amateur’s effort to try to explain the maneuver in a way that makes some sense to those of us who are not accountants:

Imagine that Jack, Jill and Danny are three friends, fresh out of college and all making good incomes. [Maybe they got some of those lucrative UTC jobs thanks to Malloy’s corporate welfare program].

Jack, Jill and Danny each make $150,000 a year, each is carrying $50,000 in student loan debt (with an interest rate of 8%), each has immaculate credit, and each wants to borrow $500,000 so that they can buy matching side by side homes, thereby allowing them to car pool to work.

Together they go to the bank which is aptly named “The First and only Bank That Lends” and each one fills out the paperwork to borrow $500,000.

The bank, after reviewing their applications, immediately announces that it would be happy to lend them each $500,000 at 4% to be paid back over 25 years.

But the bank adds —- if they’d like, the bank will give them a $550,000 loan at 4.25% for 25 years thereby allowing each to have a $50,000 “premium” to spend on whatever they want.

Now Jack likes to keep things simple when it comes to financial matters and while the thought of taking the extra $50,000 is intriguing, he decides to keep his financial situation as clear as possible.  Jack takes the $500,000 home loan at 4%, and decides to keep paying off his $50,000 student loan debt at the 8% rate.

At the end of 25 years Jack will have paid off his $500,000 home loan at 4% and his $50,000 student loan debt at 8%. 

Jack will have paid a total of $907,527 in principal and interest.

Jill is more nimble when it comes to these financial things so she takes the $50,000 premium and pays off her student loans immediately, leaving her with a $550,000 home loan at 4.25%

At the end of 25 years Jill will have paid off her full $550,000 home loan at 4.25% (having used $50,000 to pay off her 8% student loan debt.)

Jill will have paid a total of $893,868 in principal and interest.

But Danny, who is aspires to a future in politics, loves to live for the moment.  Danny decides to take the $550,000 loan at 4.25% but instead of using the extra money it to pay off his student loan he uses the “premium” to buy some things he has wanted to buy but couldn’t afford with his $150,000 income.  Danny is therefore left with a $550,000 home loan at 4.25% and $50,000 in student debt at 8%

At the end of 25 years, Danny will have paid off the $550,000 loan at 4.25% and the $50,000 student loan debt at 8%

Danny will have paid a total of $1,009,640 in principal and interest.

In return for getting that $50,000 “premium” to cover his expanded expenses, Danny’s strategy means he will have paid $115,772 more than Jill and $102,113 more than Jack at the end of 25 years.

So now let’s return to the real world of Connecticut in 2014.

And lo and behold Governor Dannel Malloy’s fiscal strategy is exactly the same as Danny’s!

However, in the real world situation, the extra principal and interest is being paid for by the taxpayers of Connecticut.

So when you read Governor Malloy took $160 million in “Bond Premiums” to cover up the debt over the last three years and has taken another $78 million in “Bond Premiums” so far this year, we can remember that taxpayers are now on the hook for $238 million in additional principal which will mean far higher total costs in principal and interest payments then we would have otherwise incurred.

And perhaps even more importantly, DON’T FORGET that Connecticut taxpayers are now paying a higher interest rate on the underlying debt that Malloy borrowed so that he could get that “bond premium.” [Recall that Danny took the $550,000 home mortgage at $4.25% instead of 4% so he could get that extra $50,000 “premium” cash.]

Not sure that makes the bond premium issues any clearer, but here is a table that attempts to summarize the whole thing in a single chart…

 

25 YEAR LOANS JACK JILL DANNY
New House $500,000 4% 791,755
Student Loan $50,000 8% 115,772
$907,527
 

Bank Offers – $550,000 including a Bond Premium of $50,000

4.25%     $893,868 $893,868
 

Jill uses her $50,000 to pay off student debt but Danny uses the $50,000 for expenses so still has his $50,000 in student loans at 8% interest rate

$115,722
 

TOTAL over 25 years in principal and interest

     

$907,527

 

$893,868

 

$1,009,640

 

Danny Pays $102,113 more than Jack

           

Danny pays $115,772 more than Jill

 

All to get the $50,000 “PREMIUM”

         

$50,000

 

ALERT – The on-going effort to destroy CSU and the Community Colleges

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The CT Mirror had an excellent article last Friday entitled, CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan.” It highlights some of the issues surrounding the uproar about Governor Malloy’s “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.

It would appear that the basic problem with the Transform CSCU 2020 “initiative” can best summed up by the naïve comment of Regent President Gregory Gray who told the CT Mirror,

“All of this [plan] is very supportable…I think the faculty, when they really learn more about it, and participate before it becomes a final plan, I do believe they are going to praise it.”

Like a true champion of corporate education reform, Gray appears committed to the notion that a “post-modern,” corporate oriented approach to public higher education is a “simple” solution to providing Connecticut’s residents with the higher educational opportunities they need and deserve in today’s complex world.

Like so much of the corporate education reform movement, the rhetoric sounds great, but the product produced is the antithesis of what is best for students, faculty and the society at large.

It is a sad commentary, although not surprising, that when you turn public primary, secondary and higher education over to the corporate elite and their well-paid consultants, you end up with a “business plan” that appears financially attractive but lacks the sophistication necessary to produce an education system that recognizes that all students can learn and thrive, but not all students learn and thrive at the same time or in the same way.

Most importantly, these corporate driven plans tend to think of educators as if they are the greeters at Wal-Mart, the re-stockers at Target or the checkout workers at the Dollar store.

While all of those positions are vital to the success of an advanced capitalist retail establishment, the model is not transferable to the “education sector,” although the corporate reformers are either unable or unwilling to recognize that truth.

The CT Mirror piece lays out the key issues underlying the failure of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan including;

  • “An unpopular merger of the bachelor-degree granting Connecticut State Universities with the state’s online and community colleges created a 90,000-student system and left many faculty uneasy.
  • A cut in the portion of funding provided by the state legislature challenged the 16-campus system that was already facing significant shortfalls.
  • A trio of serious missteps by the new system’s first president led to his dismissal and further damaged faculty confidence in the organization’s leadership.”

But in the end, the botched development and roll-out of Transform CSCU 2020 rests with the President of the Board of Regents, the Board of Regents and their $1.8 million consultants.

The plan to transform Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges was driven by a consulting company called Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  As CT Mirror notes, the plan is a “long list of ‘road maps’ for implementation; and used language that to faculty was strange, bureaucratic and off-putting, referring to such things as collecting ‘payroll and staffing data’ to ‘identify key opportunities’ with the goal of ‘program optimization.’”

Observers shouldn’t be surprised by the junk delivered by the Boston Consulting Group. While $1.8 million might sound excessive, the Regent President and the Board of Regents got exactly what they paid wanted and paid for…or at least they got exactly what they should have expected.

The Boston Consulting Group is a massive, multi-national consulting company whose fame comes, in part, from helping companies transform themselves into international competitors by outsourcing every possible function and laying off Americans in the process.

The Boston Consulting Group is also infamous for its unending commitment to the corporate education reform industry agenda of privatizing schools, undermining teachers and the teaching profession and recommending that progress can only be achieved by crushing unions and rolling back collective bargaining rights.

Topping their list of “successes” is their present plan to privatize much of Philadelphia‘s public school system.  Their proposal, for which they were paid millions of dollars, has been to lay off teachers, dramatically expand the number of privately run, but publicly funded charter schools, out-source services and replace people with technology.

As the CT Mirror story notes in its story, Regent President Gray now says that he was surprised by the backlash against the plan that he and the Board of Regents developed in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group.

If Regent President Gray was really surprised, then that – as we say – says it all!

As reported in early Wait, What? blog posts, the problems with the Transform CSCU 2020 are not new.

Transform CSCU 2020 started with the wrong approach to developing a comprehensive plan, utilized the wrong consultants and was backed by a Board of Regents who don’t have the understanding or experience with Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges to even know what a successful plan would look like.

The wrong approach to developing the plan:

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

At the same time, an “Executive Steering Committee” was named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.

Instead, the Transform CSCU 2020 Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; The Boston Consulting Group lead Partner on the project, J. Puckett; Catherine Smith, Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

While having business interests at the table is certainly appropriate when developing a comprehensive plan for Connecticut’s state universities and colleges, a successful system of public higher education requires more than just a business orientation.

In fact, the notion that something as large, complex and important as the Connecticut state universities and community colleges can be “transformed” from the top down, led by an all business sector Executive Steering Committee that lacks faculty, staff, student or alumni is, in and of itself, a sign that Malloy’s appointees lacked the vision, wisdom and understanding to do the job right.

Transform CSCU 2020:  The Wrong High- Cost Consultants:

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents’ decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group was also wrong from the start.  The Boston Consulting Group record makes it absolutely clear that it does not understand and respect the culture and environment surrounding education.

The Boston Consulting Group’s plan for the Philadelphia Public Schools provides clear and convincing proof of that problem.  In Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group’s recommendation including a plan to “essentially wipe out collective bargaining,” including removing tenure for public school teachers and allowing administrators to hire and fire at will.  The BCG report also recommended “outsourcing maintenance and transportation services,” including getting rid of those who belonged to SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201 unless they gave up their collective bargaining rights.  At its core, the Boston Consulting Group plan for Philadelphia was about replacing public education with publicly funded charter schools.

You can read more about BCG’s dismal approach in Philadelphia via the following links;

Report detailing Boston Consulting Group findings and recommendations released; BCG ‘collective bargaining reform’ and what it would mean for teachers; More About the Boston Consulting Group: Read It and Weep; Ethics complaint accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of violating lobbying code; Put the Boston Consulting Group where it belongs – before the public; Boston Consulting Group has been a driving force on labor talks, school closings, and charters

And as if that was  not proof enough of the inappropriateness of choosing the Boston Consulting Group, the Board of Regents should have simply read the articles written by the Boston Consulting Group’s lead consultant for the Transform CSCU 2020 plan, J. Puckett. Puckett is the Boston Consulting Group’s “senior partner and managing director” in their Dallas office and is the leader of their “global Education practice.”

Puckett’s articles, including “An Education in Making a Difference,” “The State of Public Education in New Orleans, 2008 Report and “Can Technology Revolutionize Education?.”  They paint the picture of a true champion of the corporate education reform industry.

When writing about the future of public education, Puckett writes, “There are several successful U.S. role models, such as New Orleans and Dallas,” adding, “The turnaround in New Orleans has been especially sharp.”

But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we are painfully aware of here in Connecticut, the work of Paul Vallas and the other corporate education reform industry elite has been disastrous from Chicago to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Bridgeport.

Equally revealing is when the Boston Consulting Groups’ J. Puckett opines about the benefit of technology in the classroom saying, “Several providers, such as K12 and Connections Academy, offer a full range of products, including digital curricula, lesson plans, instructional tools, and teacher training. School systems can take advantage of these resources at greatly reduced costs, rather than go it alone.”

He adds, “Rocketship Education, a charter school network near San Francisco, with national expansion plans, is reinventing how learning takes place in the classroom, asking its students to spend 25 percent of each day in a “learning lab,” where they work on customized, computer-delivered material. During this time, the students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

The real evidence about K12 Inc. and Rocketship Charter Schools is hardly positive, but anyone familiar with the needs of students would recognize the inherent problem with the notion that, “students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

Finally, in a 2014 email Puckett makes it clear just what the Boston Consulting Group is doing.

Writing about a new partnership between Boston Consulting Group, the pro-education reform Gates Foundation and Harvard Business School, Puckett writes,

“The BCG-Gates-HBS PK-12 research focuses on best practices for partnerships between business leaders and educators to accelerate improvement in America’s schools. The research has identified three high-leverage ways in which business leaders can engage with educators to bring about significant change for the better:

* Laying the policy foundations for education innovation
* Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
* Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

“It is our pleasure to share with you two joint research reports on these important topics. We hope the first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, will inspire business and education leaders to work together on the urgent task of transforming the nation’s education system. The second report, Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner, summarizes the findings of a nationwide study on U.S. competitiveness and business’ role in education.

Considering the long and proud history of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, the Boston Consulting Group should never have been hired for the job of developing Transform CSCU 2020.

A Board of Regents that lacks the necessary or appropriate experience:

Finally, as if the inappropriate top-down approach and selection of Boston Consulting Group wasn’t enough to undermine the legitimacy of the “Transform CSCU 2020” effort, there is the fact that Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut Board of Regents lack the necessary experience to properly oversee policies that impact the 92,000 students who attend the 17 diverse public universities and colleges that make up the Board of Regents CSCU system.

Many of these political appointees can claim successful careers as corporate executives or business people, but they lack of real-world experience and the experience with these institutions to lead the mission of creating a long-term plan for Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Malloy’s Board of Regent Trustees includes:

Regent Chairman Nicholas M. Donofrio, a former high ranking IBM executive who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Syracuse University.  He continues to sit on the Board of Trustees for those two institutions.

Regent Vice- Chair Yvette Meléndez, the Vice President of Government and Community Alliances for Hartford Hospital. As her Regent biography proudly claims, “Her experience also includes roles at the State Department of Education, where she led Connecticut’s entry into the charter school movement.”    Her degrees come from Brooklyn College and  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Lawrence DeNardis, the President Emeritus of the University of New Haven and a former United States Congressman.  His academic experience included time as an Associate Professor at Albertus Magnus College.  His degrees come from College of the Holy Cross and New York University.

Matt Fleury, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Science Center, having previously served as the Center’s Executive Vice President and COO.  His degree comes from the University of Connecticut School of Business.

David R. Jimenez, a shareholder of the law firm of Jackson Lewis. His Regent bio reports that he provides counsel to employers on a variety of strategic matters including HR compliance, outsourcing/in-sourcing HR initiatives, code of conduct development and organizational compliance, and management of employment law exposures.  His degrees are from University of Texas and Hofstra University School of Law,

Craig Lappen, the President of 21st Century Financial Advisors with degrees from Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut.

Bill McGurk, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Rockville Bank.  He is a graduate of Holy Cross College.

JoAnn H. Price, the co-founder and managing partner of Fairview Capital Partners, Inc. She is a graduate of Howard University.

Elease E. Wright, a former executive at Aetna Inc.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut and served on the Board of Directors for the UConn Foundation.

There are hree other Trustees who do have significantly more CSU or Community College experience, including former Speaker of the House and Lobbyist Richard J. Balducci, former Chair of the House Education Committee Naomi K. Cohen and former President of Charter Oak State College, Merle Harris, but like all good political appointee they have to be extremely cognizant of the wishes of the Malloy administration and their operatives.  The Board of Regents also includes two student representatives.

As the debate about Transform CSCU 2020 continues, the fact is that it could have been a powerful vision to create an even more vibrant state universities and community colleges, but that opportunity has been wasted with the work done to date.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan

More on the controversial Transform CSCU 2020 can also be found in the Wait, What? blog entitled, “The stench coming from the Board of Regents.”

Malloy administration dumps the State’s best/toughest labor negotiator

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In a stunning move that surprised people across the political spectrum, Governor Malloy’s administration has laid off the individual who is widely acknowledged as the best and toughest labor negotiator the State of Connecticut has ever had.

Linda Yelmini has worked as a classified state employee since 1987, serving as a key labor negotiator and personnel manager for Connecticut’s Democrat and Republican governors, as well as for Independent Governor Lowell Weicker.

Those of us who have been involved in projects on the same side and opposing sides of Yelmini can attest to her extraordinary understanding of the law and her dedication to the state and its taxpayers.

Over the years, her reputation as a tough negotiator and manager has led many to observe that one definitely doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of an issue that she is working on and there are certainly active, retired and fired state employees who’d even call her ruthless.

That said, there are others who would argue that while she is tough, she has constantly strived to ensure that work rules have been applied consistently…which may just be the problem the Malloy administration has with her.  I’m sure they found it harder to make some political hires when the state’s chief labor negotiator tells them such a move would violate state labor laws and contracts.

While the Malloy administration’s decision to remove Yelmini and throw away her decades of experience is extremely odd, the way they went about it and their effort to spin their story is even stranger.

When interviewed about the news, Yelmini told reporters that the announcement to remove her from her career position had come as a “shock” and that she was told that her position would be replaced by a “political appointee.”

At the same time, in what could only be called laughable, Malloy told reporters that he had nothing to do with the decision, claiming that his budget director, Ben Barnes, was solely responsible for the action.”

CT Newsjunkie quoted Malloy as saying, “Ben’s going to continue in the position as secretary and he’s designing what he wants I guess.”

The notion that the governor’s budget director would lay off the state’s chief negotiator and replace that person with a “political appointee” without the approval of the governor is beyond absurd.

Unless, of course, Malloy is telling the truth in which case it is an extremely sad commentary about Malloy’s lack of managerial focus and his lack of commitment to his role as Connecticut’s Chief Executive Officer.

The CT Newsjunkie story went on to report that, “Malloy said he leaves these types of personnel decisions up to his department heads…’Within these departments, I give a lot of leeway to the people who are hired to do the job,’ Malloy said.”

So let’s get this straight…

Malloy is saying that despite that fact that the state is facing a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit next year, in which the Governor, himself, has consistently said he won’t raise taxes, won’t cut aid to towns, won’t cut vital services and won’t need to sit down with state employee unions to talk about concessions, he allowed an underling to fire the state’s chief labor negotiator and replace her with a political appointee…and he wasn’t even involved in the decision?

Yeah, and I got a bridge to sell if anyone wants to buy it.

You can read more about this strange development at:  Malloy Administration Personnel Changes Are Under Way.

Jon Lender has more details at the Courant in a piece entitled State Labor Relations Chief Facing Layoff

BREAKING NEWS – Capital Prep Steve Perry – Above the law and deserves it all

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As Wait, What? readers know, while employed as a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education, Capital Prep Magnet School Principal Steve Perry has been engaged in an on-going effort to build a lucrative charter school chain using the name Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. and materials he and his senior staff developed while being paid with taxpayer funds by the City of Hartford.

Perry’s proposal is to open a chain of privately run, publically funded charter schools starting with a school in Bridgeport, Connecticut and one in Harlem, New York.

The proposals for both schools openly admitted that the plans were based on Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, that the materials used will be the same as those used at Capital Prep Magnet School and the management team that will run the Bridgeport and Harlem charter schools will be the same group of senior administrators and teachers that are presently running Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford.

The proposals even included many of the written materials that can be found on Capital Prep Magnet School’s present website.

But of course, Steve Perry and his team know perfectly well that such a move is blatantly illegal.

The law is very clear, materials and concepts developed by public employees during the course of their work belong to their employer – the government that pays them and its citizens.

Steve Perry and his employees know the law because it is clearly defined in the written policies of the Hartford Board of Education which states,

Materials created by staff at the instigation and/or direction of superiors and/or during work-time shall be considered “work made for hire” under Sections 201(b) and 101 of the Copyright Act and shall be solely the property of the school district.

It is also understood that educational materials created by an employee during the employee’s leisure hours when the employee is not fulfilling his/her contractual duties to the school district are the property of the employee

But those laws haven’t stopped Steve Perry or the government officials who are supporting his effort to achieve financial success.

With the support of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the State Board of Education approved Perry’s plan to open a charter school in Bridgeport next fall.  The plan includes the fact that Perry’s private charter school company would start collecting a multi-million dollar “management fee.”

The State Board of Education approved Perry’s plan despite the fact that there is no money in the budget for any more privately run, but publically funded charter schools and the state of Connecticut is facing a massive deficit.

Last Friday, the pro-charter New York Board of Regents also approved a proposal allowing Steve Perry and his Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. to open a charter school in Harlem next fall.

Neither the Connecticut State Board of Education nor the New York Board of Regents took note of the fact that Perry did not have the legal authority to use the materials or concepts outlined in his proposals.  According to that plan, Perry will collect a $2.5 million management fee per year, for the first five years.

While the initial issue is why officials are allowing Perry to break the law and steal materials and concepts that belong to the people of Hartford (it is called plagiarism), the second key question relates to how Perry’s ploy to open his charter school management chain would impact his role as head of Capital Prep Magnet School.

When the Connecticut State Board of Education was considering Perry plan to use his private company to open a charter school in Bridgeport, Perry said that he would be able to take on the task of opening and running a new school because he would be leaving Hartford.

However, in his proposal to open a charter school New York City, Perry told the New York Board of Regents that that he already owned the Hartford public school in which he work and revealed that his corporate business plan included making money from Hartford’s public school, as well as the yet to be opened Bridgeport charter school in the years to come.

Perry’s application explained:

“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.”

For details about Perry’s New York charter school plan read the Wait, What? article entitled, “Steve Perry’s plan – Turn Hartford’s Capital Prep into a charter, open charters in Bridgeport and New York

So is Steve Perry leaving Hartford Prep as he told the Connecticut State Board of Education or is he going to own Hartford Prep as he reported to the New York Board of Regents

Well now the truth is finally coming out…

Despite telling Connecticut state officials that he’d be giving up his role at Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School, Perry’s plan appears to be that he will take over private control of Hartford’s public Capital Prep Magnet School

In a letter this week to parents, Steve Perry said that he intends to keep full control of Hartford Capital Prep, apparently by convincing the Hartford Board of Education to allow him to turn it into a charter school or allow his private charter school company to run the school.

Perry told parents to join him at a meeting on Monday, November 24, 6pm in the Sheff Center to continue the discussion about the future of Capital Prep.  He reported that, “joining us will be Jonathan Shaw and Oliver Barton who will meet with us on behalf of the Superintendent.”

At the same time, Perry wrote the following letter to parents,

From Dr. Perry:

Capital Prep is not going anywhere. We are simply expanding to two other cities. Neither students nor staff need to look for a new school, at all!

I have offered to continue to lead Capital Prep as we expand. We would oversee the daily operations, as we always have, as Capital Prep expands to Bridgeport and Harlem. The cost to Hartford for us, the founders of Capital Prep, to continue to operate our school would be $1.

Yes, for $1 our non profit has proposed to keep our school’s founders together but Hartford’s new superintendent Dr. Beth Narvaez and school board are not supporting our efforts to continue to run the school that we have made into one of the most successful in America. Their expectation is that at the end of this school year we walk away. At which time they will take responsibility for operating Capital Prep, starting with selecting a new principal.

Our parents, faculty and students have overwhelmingly supported our plan for continuity and expansion for years. Other Hartford schools have selected who and how their school will be operated. Yet the new superintendent, Dr. Beth Narvaez, and the board are saying Capital Prep will be treated differently. When we go to expand, they intend to take over our school.

The issue, therefore, is not if there will be a Capital Prep. It is who will run it? Either we, the family who have been doing so for over 10 years or they, the new superintendent and board. The question is not, should you look for a new school? The question is would you rather keep our family of educators together as we grow to include more children or would you rather be operated by Hartford Public Schools?

We are, and always will be, Capital Prep.

With deepest love,

Dr. Steve Perry

As far as Perry’s plan is concerned, the only possible hindrance would be if Connecticut Governor Malloy, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, the Connecticut Board of Education, the Hartford Board of Education, Connecticut’s Attorney General, Connecticut’s State Auditors or Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney decided to actually do their job and put an end to Perry’s outrageous game.

Of course, if they do… watch out…

Remember, Perry is the who, when he didn’t get his way last year, 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.

 

But of course, at the time, officials looked the other way and Perry got away with a Tweet that would have escorted any other school administrator, teacher or student to the door and into the hands of awaiting police officers.

Budget Cuts – Round #1, More to Come

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On Thursday, Governor Malloy’s budget director announced a series of significant budget cuts to existing state programs.  The problem is not only the damage the cuts will do but that they solve only a portion of this year’s growing state budget deficit which is now projected at about $100 million.  However, the magnitude of the budget deficit is closer to twice that number, a fact that Malloy can’t keep secret for more than another month or two.

Still Malloy’s initial cuts fly in the face of his repeated promises that Connecticut’s fiscal health is good and that we do not need to cut vital services if the voters of Connecticut granted him a second term in office.

But his actions tell a very different story.

Topping his list of budget cuts was, as expected, Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, along with critically important human services.

CT Mirror has the details at “Malloy’s emergency budget cuts fall on social services, education,” CTNewsJunkie at “Malloy Makes Cuts To DCF, Higher Ed,” and the Courant at “Malloy Makes $47.8M In Budget Cuts To Ease Deficit.”

The most revolting of Malloy’s budget cuts are aimed at Connecticut most vulnerable citizens, children facing severe challenges and those with developmental disabilities.

Malloy cut $9.2 million from the Department of Children and Families and $5.5 million from the Department of Developmental Disabilities.  Since there are only seven months left in the fiscal year, these cuts will hit key programs especially hard.

As reported by CT Mirror and others, Malloy has been limiting access to DCF’s residential treatment programs (group homes for extremely troubled children).   His latest cut will effectively close the door on new placements and lead the closure of even more DCF group homes.

While a Malloy official explained away the problem to the CT Mirror by saying that DCF was, “committed to maintaining youth in their communities in the least restrictive settings that can meet their needs,” the reality of the situation is that there are many parents and children that desperately need residential options.  In far too many cases, the failure to provide a residential placement puts the family and child in danger.

However, in what only can be described as an immoral move, the Malloy administration turns its back on these Connecticut families and children.  If Malloy’s action is not illegal, it should be.

In an equally inappropriate blow, Malloy is cutting the Department of Developmental Services including day services and employment programs for those with developmental disabilities.  Sad and ironic that Malloy reduces residential treatment options and then reduces options for those who need day treatment and employment services.

Malloy’s human service cuts also include $3.2 million cut from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The cuts to that agency will mean vitally important positions will go unfilled, leaving remaining employees unable to meet the present demand for services.

At the same time the governor is going after human services, he is also cutting an additional $6.5 from Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, this despite the fact that Malloy has already made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s system of public higher education.

Rather than speak out against these dramatic cuts, the spokespeople for the universities and colleges rolled over in appeasement, thereby assuring that Connecticut students and their parents will be paying even more and getting even less from UConn, CSU and the community colleges.

As Malloy pretends to claim that he is adhering to his “no new taxes” pledge, Connecticut college students and their parents will be paying higher tuition – which is nothing more than a user tax.

But perhaps the most offensive move of all is Malloy’s failure to come clean about the magnitude of the budget problem, even though the election is safely behind him.

While the present budget deficit is officially pegged at about $100 million, Malloy’s budget office is holding back evidence of additional budget problems.  The reality of the situation is that this round of cuts solves less than half of the documented budget deficit and more like 25 percent of the real budget problem facing the state.

Even in victory Malloy remains unable or unwilling to tell the people of Connecticut the truth.

The stench coming from the Board of Regents

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The October 9th Wait, What? post was entitled, “There is something very, very wrong going on at Connecticut’s Board of Regents.

But no, it was not a blog post about the growing controversy surrounding the effort to jam through the ill-conceived and damaging “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that is being pushed by Regent President Gregory Gray and the members of the Connecticut Board of Regents.

The Wait, What? blog with that title was posted more than two years ago (October 2012) and dealt with the myriad of problems that surfaced when the previous president of the Board of Regents, Robert Kennedy, illegally hand out nearly $300,000 in pay raises to employees in the central office despite state law and the SEBAC labor agreement that prevented such a maneuver.  Three days later, Kennedy submitted his resignation and was gone.

But the sad and shocking reality is that the notion that “there is something very, very wrong going on at Connecticut’s Board of Regents” is even truer today than it was two years ago.

In fact, the action being pursued by the Board of Regents and its current president may well be the worst proposal for public higher education in Connecticut history.

Rather than improve the quality and accessibility of a college education for tens of thousands of Connecticut students, their new plan, would leave Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges a sad empty shadow of what they once were and could be with the proper leadership and support.

To begin to understand the situation, all you have to do is read some of the recent news stories in the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant.

Faculty decry provost’s departure, president’s plan for CSCU’s future and ECSU faculty union gives president’s plans an F and Faculty push back on president’s plans for Connecticut State Universities and Regents Provost Resigns Abruptly After Less Than 8 Months and ECSU Faculty OK Organizing ‘No Confidence’ Vote On Regents President and Smart Classrooms Discussed At Board Of Regents Meeting

But the real problem behind the proposed “Transform CSCU 2020” is far more serious than the media coverage has yet explained.

When William Cibes served as the Chancellor of the Connecticut State University System and Mark Herzog served as the Chancellor of the Connecticut Community & Technical Colleges, the two not only worked to include faculty, staff, students, alumni and the greater community in the decision-making, but they stood as strong advocates for their institutions, rather than tools of any sitting governor.

When push came to shove, these higher education administrators understood that while they were part of the state government, their primary duty was to serve their institutions and their respective missions.

However, the focus of the leadership all changed when Governor Malloy decided to merge the two systems into one entity called the Board of Regents.

Malloy’s disastrous proposal would not have passed but for the lobbying effort of Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman who called Democratic members of the Education Committee to tell them to overrule their chairperson, State Representative Roberta Willis, who was rightly demanding significant changes to the legislation.

The merger of CSU and the Community Colleges was a bad idea to begin with and the situation has only gotten worse over the last three years.

Rather than recognize the importance of both systems, including the growing quality of the Connecticut State University System and the vital importance of the Community College System, the Malloy administration – through its state budgets and appointments to the Board of Regents – has consistently undermined the fundamental mission of those institutions.

The plan to “transform” CSU and the community colleges is but the latest and most profound reminder of Malloy’s disastrous approach to public higher education in Connecticut.

Instead of appointing people who appreciate and understand the vital role that the Connecticut State University and the Community Colleges play, the Malloy administration and the people appointed to the Board of Regents have been engaged in a full-scale effort to limit the institutions’ ability to succeed while transferring the costs of running these public institutions onto the backs of the students and their families.

The problem is that the “Transform CSCU 2020” plan was developed by people who don’t appreciate the role these colleges and universities play in the fabric of Connecticut.

Incredibly, the Board of Regents appears equally blind.

Faced with the need to develop a strategic plan for these public institutions, the Board decided to overlook the expertise here in Connecticut or properly include the input of the faculty, staff, students and alumni of the universities and colleges.

Instead, President Gray and the Board of Regents paid $1.8 million to a multi-national consulting company called the Boston Consulting Group.

The Boston Consulting Group is an entity dedicated to the notion of privatization and implementing “efficiencies.”

One of the Boston Consulting Group’s “claims to fame” is the recent plan to privatize Philadelphia’s public school system, a plan that was adopted by a right-wing governor and has led to the closure of public schools across that city and the rapid expansion of privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter schools.

Some are rightly focused on the question of why the Boston Consulting Group would be allowed to develop such a disastrous “Transform CSCU 2020” plan?

But an equally important question is why the Board of Regents would even hire the consulting group in the first place and whether the majority of the board even knew about the Boston Consulting Group’s history or the appearance of what could be considered serious conflicts of interests?

Insiders at the Board of Regents report that Boston Consulting Group came via the endorsement of President Gray and Nicholas M. Donofrio, the chairman of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

An Executive Steering Committee was also named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.  Instead the Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; J Puckett, Boston Consulting Group Partner and Managing Director; Catherine Smith, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

As the controversy surrounding the Boston Consulting Group plan grows, the role of the Board of Regents, and especially its Chairman Nicholas Donofrio, become increasingly important.

The question now is whether the Board will stand up for what is in the best of the state and its citizens or will it continue to align itself with the corporate junk being delivered by the Boston Consulting Group.

The answer may very well rest with Nicholas Donofrio, the Chairman of the Board of Regents.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy nominated Nicholas Donofrio, a former high-ranking IBM executive, to the Board of Regents when the Board was created in 2011 and made him Chairman of the Board on December, 12, 2013.

Despite Connecticut’s Campaign Finance System that was supposed to keep pay-to-play and big money out of politics, Donofrio is what could best be described as one of Malloy’s “super donors.”

After Donofrio was put on the Board of Regents, he and his wife donated $20,000 to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s “federal account,” the entity that Malloy and his campaign operation used to funnel $4.6 million into his re-election campaign on top of the $6.5 million he got from the taxpayer funded State Elections Fund and the $15 million in out-of-state money that was spent to support Malloy’s candidacy this year.

After Donofrio was named chairman of the Board of Regents, he donated another $20,000 to the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee’s “federal account,” making him one of Malloy’s largest donors.  During the same period, Donofrio and is wife also gave the Democratic National Committee more than $103,000.

At the time Malloy appointed Donofrio to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Regents, he praised him for his connections to the “business community” noting that “Donofrio consults and speaks nationally and internationally on a broad range of topics including innovation, technology and education for a broad range of clients and audiences.”

What Malloy didn’t explain was the depth of Donofrio’s real or potential conflicts of interests when it came to serving as the chair and as a guardian of Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Some of those issues might explain how Boston Consulting Group got a lucrative $1.8 million contract to develop a plan that is counter to what is in the best interests of Connecticut and its citizens.

But the record fails to indicate whether Malloy or Donofrio even informed the Board of regents about the potential conflicts of interest.

It turns out that Nicholas Donofrio not only serves as Chairman of the Connecticut Board of Regents but he is a twenty-year veteran of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Board of Trustees and a long-time member of Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees.   He also chaired a special committee that recommended that the University of Vermont have more private trustees and fewer appointed by public officials.

In addition to his relationship with other universities that recruit students from Connecticut,  Donofrio serves on a long list of corporate boards including of The Bank of New York, Wigix, Inc., The MITRE Corporation, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Liberty Mutual Holding Company, Inc., TopCoder, Inc., Sproxil, Inc. and Delphi Automotive PLC.  He also serves on the boards of StarVest Partners, L.P, Atlas Research LLC., and O’Brien & Gere Limited.

Interestingly, this year State Treasurer Denise Nappier used her voting authority as head of the state pension fund to cast votes for Donofrio for the lucrative board positions on Delphi Automotive plc, The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.  The State Treasurer did the same thing in 2012.

Donofrio also served as one of the members of the Bush administration’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, thanks to the appointment he received from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

Thanks to a number of these positions, Donofrio has had extensive contact with Boston Consulting Group and those associated with the company.

For example, after leaving her position as Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings formed an education consulting firm and now serves as a senior adviser to the Boston Consulting Group.

Donofrio’s role on the board of The MITRE Corporation also puts him in contact with another senior Boston Consulting Group adviser, Michèle Flournoy.

And other companies Donofrio is affiliated with have retained the services of the Boston Consulting Group, including Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. who brought in the Boston Consulting Group to advise the company on strategy when it decided to restructure and lay off thousands of employees.

While these connections may or may not rise to a conflict of interest, the decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to “transform” CSU and the Community Colleges is extremely troubling.

And the decision is made worse because of the unlikelihood that Regent President Gray or Regent Chairman Donofrio will do the right thing and throw out this flawed proposal so that a proper plan can be developed with the true input from faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community.

Perhaps even more troubling is Malloy’s conflict of interest.

For someone who claims to be right even when he is wrong, there is ample reason to believe that he won’t demand that the Board of Regents do the right thing when one of his biggest donors is Nicholas Donofrio, who as Chairman of the Board of Regents appears committed to the flawed “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.

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