Malloy’s plan to privatize public education charges forward today

13 Comments

(aka) Is Newark’s Great Oaks Charter School coming to Bridgeport?

At today’s State Board of Education meeting, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s appointees will vote to re-commit Connecticut to the Common Core and then vote to divert scarce public funds to new charter schools in Connecticut.

As previously reported, new charter school applications up for a vote by the State Board of Education includes,

(1) Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor School (Bridgeport),

(2) Jumoke Academy Michael Sharpe’s Booker T. Washington Academy (New Haven),

(3) The Bronx/Stamford Charter School for Excellence (Stamford) and

(4) Newark’s Great Oaks Charter School (Bridgeport).

One of the leading contenders in the effort to grab Connecticut taxpayer dollars is the Newark, New Jersey based charter school chain that proposes to open the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Yes… Newark is where Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, worked before coming to Connecticut.

Pryor’s Chief of Staff, Adam Goldfarb, also came from Newark and Goldfarb still sits on the board of directors of a New Jersey charter school company.

Initially the Great Oaks Charter School company proposed that they would be ready to open a charter school in Bridgeport in time for the 2015/2016 school year.

But in a sure sign that the fix is in, just last week, the Great Oaks Charter School quietly “amended” their application claiming they would now be ready to open this coming September.

The change appears to be part of a broader strategy by the Malloy administration to approve some charter schools for this coming year and then return after the election to approve other applications when fewer parents, teachers and public school advocates will be paying attention.

Connecticut’s Latino community should be especially concerned and insulted by what appears to be the Malloy Administration’s maneuver to give the Newark, New Jersey charter school company a school in Bridgeport.

The company’s school in Newark does not serve any English Language learners, but the application arrogantly claims that they are ready and able to serve Bridgeport’s diverse student population in which at least one in four students need English Language or bi-lingual programs.

In addition, the Great Oaks Charter School is yet another example of one of these “no-excuses” institutions where excessive discipline is used to pummel children into submission or force them to transfer back into the local public school system.

While this type of school would never be allowed to open in one of Connecticut’s suburban communities, the no-excuse model has become a favorite among urban-based charter school operators.

According to records from New Jersey, Great Oaks Charter School suspended more than one-third of its students one or more times last year.

Furthermore, while claiming that their focus will be on “college readiness,” the records from New Jersey reveal that Great Oaks ranked at the absolute bottom of the list on that goal when compared to other schools in New Jersey.

As with Steve Perry’s proposal to open a charter school in Bridgeport, the Great Oaks Charter School proposal has the strong support of Mayor Bill Finch, Governor Malloy’s key ally in Bridgeport.

Finch even submitted a letter with the Great Oaks Charter School application stating that the City of Bridgeport would pay 50% of the Great Oak’s Charter School lease costs for the first 5 years.

The cost to taxpayers for Finch’s gift to the charter school company would be $477,000.

While Finch promises another subsidy to this out-of-state charter school company, Connecticut taxpayers were required to come up with a $3.5 million “forgivable” loan to balance Bridgeport’s school budget last year and the Malloy administration has already committed to filling Bridgeport’s $3.3 million school budget shortfall this year.

As the saying goes, “you just can’t make this stuff up!”

You can read the super, amazing, fantastic, wonderful, incredible Great Oaks Charter school application here:  http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/public_hearings/great_oaks_app.pdf

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

5 Comments

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.

Look out Bridgeport, here comes Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry

38 Comments

According to the website that hosts his “inspirational” speaking business, Steve Perry is the “Most Trusted Educator in America.”

His “non-nonsense” approach to education takes many forms, including an obsession with his Twitter Account.

Just the other day Steve Perry Tweeted,

“Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults. Let your kid get used to somebody digging in the ass! That’s life, get over it.”

Despite having a full-time job as a principal in the Hartford School System, a job that he is absent from more than 20% of the time due to his fee-for-appearance speaking tours, Steve Perry has created a private charter school management company and now wants to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, the Connecticut State Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the proposal to open what would be called the Capital Prep Harbor School.

Connecticut taxpayers would pick up 100% of the costs of Perry’s new school, while Bridgeport taxpayers would continue to have to pay for the transportation and special education costs at Perry’s school, although the local Bridgeport Board of Education would have no control over the school or its activities.

You can read the application by clicking here: [PDF]

Readers will note that two of Perry’s key backers are Mayor Bill Finch and Finch’s campaign manager and disgraced and ousted Board of Education Chairman, the Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

The application doesn’t indicate whether Perry will be bringing his notorious “Table of Shame” to Bridgeport should the state approve his charter school application.

In Hartford, Perry’s discipline policies are enforced by humiliating children by making them sit at the Table of Shame, making them eat standing up, making them stand up during entire academic classes or making them stand up for extended periods of time facing the wall.

The March 18, 2014 will be held at the Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School which is located at 840 Old Town Rd. in Bridgeport.

Although Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education don’t take kindly to public input, the hearing is supposed to be “an opportunity for the general public to comment and submit written testimony on the school’s application.”

The hearing will take place from 6-8 p.m. Speakers will be limited to three minutes.

Anyone who has experienced Perry’s educational philosophy or care about the children of Bridgeport should plant to attend the public hearing.

Those who can’t attend but want to submit testimony should send their comments to the State Board of Education via the following email address: [email protected].

The State Department of Education will also hold a mass public hearing on all charter school applications, including Perry’s, on April 2, 2104 in Hartford.

The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government (Part II)

2 Comments

Last week, there was a Wait, What? blog post was entitled, “The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government.”

The blog post was an effort to highlight another “MUST READ” commentary piece that fellow public education advocate and blogger, Sarah Darer Littman wrote for the opinion section of CT Newsjunkie.  Her piece was an explosive investigation into environmental justice, racism, political corruption and how many policy decisions are made in Connecticut.

But it turns out that what followed the publication of Sarah Darer Littman’s piece was even more telling when it comes to the state of the state of Connecticut politics, and the political elite’s dedication to misleading the public.

By reading Littman’s commentary piece and Mayor Bill Finch’s response to that piece, we get a first-hand view of the arrogance, greed and entitlement that permeates government today.

Start with Sarah Darer Littman’s column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption.”   Then read Mayor Bill Finch’s response which is entitled “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a ‘Good’ Op-Ed.”

As noted in the previous Wait, What? post, the actual issue relates to a complex deal in which Bridgeport’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

While the actual cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, the story is really about power politics and how public relations and rhetoric have become more important to politicians than substance.

In this case, Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents, as well as Connecticut taxpayers, are nothing but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.

But the truly important aspect of the debate is the way Mayor Finch responded to the concerns raised in Littman’s column.

Again, start with Sarah Darer Littman’s “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption” and then read Mayor Bill Finch’s, “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a ‘Good’ Op-Ed.”

The irony in the title of Finch’s commentary piece is reason enough to read it beginning to end.

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

26 Comments

There will be 210 fewer job openings in the Hartford School System for Connecticut residents thanks to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland and their allies on the Hartford Board of Education.

While hundreds of qualified, certified Connecticut teachers are unemployed and hundreds of additional Connecticut residents will be seeking teaching jobs after graduating from Connecticut institutions of higher education and completely comprehensive teacher training programs, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra led his political appointees in a 6-2 vote to give Teach for America another three-year contract with the City of Hartford..  In exchange for the $650,000 finder’s fee, Teach for America will send 210 new recruits to teach in Hartford Schools.

Mayor Segarra appoints the majority of members to the Hartford Board of Education.  All of his appointees, including out-going Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland, voted in favor of the TFA contract.

In this case the actual deciding vote came from the Hartford Board of Education’s one elected Republican who, “coincidently,” was “elected” chairman of the Hartford Board of Education last night as Segarra’s choice for the position.

Only Working Families Party member Robert Cotto and Michael Brescia, a former Buckley High School teacher, voted against the TFA contract.

Although the TFA recruits only get five weeks of training, they are paid the same salary and given the same benefits as teachers who already hold teacher certification in Connecticut and who have gone through a full college-level teacher training program.

The Hartford Courant update on the vote is below, but for background purposes,

According to Forbes Magazine, as of 2012, Teach for America collects in excess of $318 million a year to enlist recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Wendy Kopp is the Founder and Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors.  Until recently she was Co-CEO of Teach For America.  Now, in addition to being the Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors, Kopp serves as Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Teach For All, a new TFA spin-off company that is trying to recreate TFA in the global marketplace.

Connecticut billionaire Steven Mandel Jr. is the Treasurer of Teach For America’s Board of Directors.  Mandel is not only a major campaign contributor to Governor Malloy but has donated tens of millions to support the corporate education reform industry.  Mandel played a pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and the related ongoing effort to privatize public education in Bridgeport.

In addition to her TFA work, Wendy Kopp is married to Richard Barth, Jr.  Barth serves as the CEO of the KIPP charter school chain.  KIPP is one of the biggest players in the corporate education reform industry with 141 charter schools in 20 states.

Interestingly, Morgan Barth, who illegally taught and served as an administrator at Achievement First, Inc. for six years before becoming Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Director” is a close relative of Barth and Kopp.

Of course, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc.  Achievement First Inc. is the charter school management company with schools in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island.  Achievement First Inc. has also been the charter school company that has received the most financial benefit from Malloy and Pryor’s pro-charter school policies.

Not long ago Achievement First, Inc. added Elisa Villanueva Beard to their Board of Directors.  Elisa Villanueva Beard is a long time TFA senior executive and became TFA’s Co-CEO when Kopp left to become CEO of that new TFA spin off company.

Jonathan Sackler, a leading corporate education reform advocate in Connecticut and another major Malloy donor has been part of the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors since it was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.  Sacker also formed ConnCAN and ConnAD, which is now called A Better Connecticut.

ConnCAN, ConnAD and A Better Connecticut led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying effort in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” initiative.  These groups, along with Steve Mandel and Excel Bridgeport Inc., played the key role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed effort to eliminate an elected board of education in Bridgeport.  They also pumped a significant amount of money into Fich’s failed effort to elect Bridgeport Board of Education candidates who would support Paul Vallas.  (They failed Vallas leaves his post in Bridgeport this coming Friday).  Finch is a leading supporter of Achievement First’s Bridgeport Charter School and is lobbying on behalf of Capital Prep Steve Perry’s attempt to use his own private company to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler also created 50CAN, a company dedicated to spreading the ConnCAN model across the country.  Sackler formed 50CAN and serves on its Board of Directors.  50CAN’s Board includes Dacia Toll who not only co-founded Achievement First Inc. with Stefan Pryor, but presently serves as Co-CEO & President of Achievement First, Inc.

Another 50CAN Board Member is none-other-than KIPP Charter School’s Richard Barth Jr.  That being the same Richard Barth Jr. who is Wendy Kopp’s husband and Morgan Barth’s relative.

Meanwhile, back in Hartford, the Hartford Courant explains,

“The board voted 6-2 to approve a three-year, $650,940 contract extension between the city schools and Teach For America, a proposal that drew critics and supporters of TFA who addressed the board for more than an hour during public comments.

Teach For America recruits and trains recent college graduates who pledge to teach for at least two years in mostly low-income public schools across the country. The agreement calls for Hartford to pay Teach For America about $3,000 per recruit, with up to 60 TFA hires in 2014-15, up to 70 in 2015-16 and as many as 80 in 2016-17.

[…]

Since 2007, the first year of Hartford’s partnership with Teach For America, the district has hired 1,477 new teachers, 14 percent of whom are TFA recruits, said Jennifer Allen, the school system’s chief talent officer.

Rather than graduating from a traditional teacher preparation college, TFA recruits complete five weeks of training and become certified through the state’s Alternate Route to Certification program, administrators said. They also receive ongoing professional development through TFA that Allen called “a remarkable model for supporting new teachers.”

While several Hartford students spoke in support of their TFA teachers, many of the critics Monday, including Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, described the contract as paying a “headhunters fee” and argued that the money should be spent on improving school programs. Board member Robert Cotto Jr., who voted against the extension, also criticized the retention rate.

Among the 22 TFA hires in 2007, three remain in the school system. And of the 31 TFA teachers in the 2011-12 year, 13 still teach in Hartford schools, district data show.

Those numbers reveal that only 13 percent of the 2007 TFA recruits are still teaching in Hartford after six years and 58 percent of the 2011 TFA recruits have already bailed.

Of course, the contract states that TFA keeps its $3,000 per recruit even if the teacher quits during the first week of school.

Hartford’s Matt Poland lashes out at citizens who write to him about his upcoming TFA vote

30 Comments

Appointed by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland serves as a member of the Hartford Board of Education.  While he will remain on the Board, Poland is stepping down as Chairman tonight and Segarra’s appointees will elect the one Republican on the Board to become the Chairman.

Matt Poland also serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Hartford Library.  Poland became the Hartford Public Library’s Deputy Administrator in June 2008.  He became interim Director in December 2008 and by October 2009 he had acquired the title of Chief Executive Officer.  This was the first time that such a title had been used since the library opened in 1893.

As a public servant, whether on the Hartford Board of Education or as an employee of the Hartford Public Library, Poland’s primary job is to serve the public.

It is for that reason his email attack on citizens who contacted him is all the more bizarre.

As noted in previous Wait, What? blog posts, the Hartford Board of Education will be voting on a $650,000 Teach for America contract tonight.  Over the past few weeks a number of citizens have written to members of the Hartford Board of Education urging them to vote no.  Some citizens wrote following an informative email they received from the American Federation of Teachers (see below).

On Saturday night, after receiving a number of emails, Matt Poland went into an email tirade and sent out this response.

Collecting the names of the people who had written to him, Poland sent out a blast email that was cc’d to all the people who wrote.  His email read,

“I have just received 13 e-mails from this group on the above-referenced topic in which each of you have presented yourselves as Hartford residents, while only 6 are actually residents and taxpayers in the City (please see the list of locations below). Let me begin by saying that this demonstrates a lack of good judgement on the part of those writers who misrepresented themselves.

Since this is a form letter, it is clear that there is an organizing entity behind this effort. I will tell you what I intend to do when one of you tell me who you represent.

Matt Poland
Board Chair

Windsor
Newington
Rocky Hill
West Hartford
East Hartford (2)
Bloomfield
Hartford (6)

If there was a “Hall of Fame” to highlight the arrogance and sense of entitlement that permeates American politics, politicians and political appointees, Poland’s missive could certainly be a stand-alone exhibit.

It would certainly be inappropriate for a non-Hartford resident to say they lived in Hartford.  As members of the Hartford Board of Education, Poland and the others certainly have a primary duty to Hartford students, parents, teachers and residents.

However for Poland to dismiss the concerns of the people who wrote to him is beyond insulting.

Here are some important facts:

As a result of the Open Choice program, Hartford schools accept children from the entire region. 

Even more to the point, only about 23 percent of Hartford’s $415 million school budget is funded by Hartford taxpayers.  Connecticut taxpayers pick up about 67 percent of Hartford’s school budget and the federal government pays for most of the last 10 percent.

From the available evidence, it certainly doesn’t appear that any person was trying to “trick” Poland into believing they were Hartford residents, but more to the point, as a public official Poland has a duty to be open-minded enough that voices – even those outside of Hartford – are heard.

The individuals who wrote the emails to Poland were apparently persuaded to write after reading the following email sent out by the American Federation of Teachers,

Hartford’s Board of Education is expected to vote Monday night on whether to renew a recruiting contract with Teach for America (TFA) worth nearly three quarters of a million dollars.

Is this really the best use of the city’s limited education resources?

Handing $651,000.00 to TFA over three years as a “finders-fee” for an additional 210 recruits for the district raises additional questions:

Why spend tax dollars on a human resources function when parents are crying out for improvements to their neighborhood schools?

Why outsource recruiting to TFA instead of partnering with our state’s public colleges and universities?

Why import TFA recruits from outside the state when there is no shortage of credentialed teachers right here in Connecticut?

Click here to tell the BOE to invest in Hartford’s neighborhood schools, not outside “head hunters.”

The growing “Hartford Rising” movement has been saying school officials need to listen to parents, communities, and educators before making decisions that impact students and their opportunity to learn. Join them in urging the board vote “NO” to this costly contract.

In solidarity,

Melodie Peters
President, AFT Connecticut

Steve McKeever
First Vice-President, AFT Connecticut

Jean Morningstar
Second Vice-President, AFT Connecticut

Andrea Johnson
President, Hartford Federation of Teachers Local 1018

Shellye Davis
Co-President, Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals, AFT Local 2221

Jackie Aviles
Co-President, Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals, AFT Local 2221

P.S. Click here for a brief story on the board’s planned vote and the growing movement to “resist TFA” in local schools across the nation.

And when you, “Click here to tell the BOE to invest in Hartford’s neighborhood schools, not outside ‘head hunters,’” you get this,

Hartford BOE: Make Better Choices than Finder’s Fees

Hartford school officials are about to decide on renewing a three-year, $651,000.00 contract with Teach for America (TFA) for an additional 210 recruits for the district. We are urging members living in Hartford to contact the Board of Education before their February 24 meeting and urge they make better choices with scarce education resources.

Join the Hartford Rising! movement in urging the BOE to invest in Hartford’s neighborhood schools, not outside “head hunters.”

In order to address your message to the appropriate recipient, we need to identify where you are.

Please look up and use your full nine-digit zip for the best results. Please enter your zip/postal code

The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government

25 Comments

As measured by the number of college graduates Connecticut is among the most educated states in the nation.  As measured by per capital income Connecticut is wealthiest state in country, and if we were our own country we’d be one of the wealthiest and best educated countries in the world.

And yet there is a sickness that is increasingly evident in Connecticut politics.  It takes the form of elected and appointed officials who display a level of arrogance, greed, entitlement, and what appears to be an growing level of outright corruption…in both political parties.

In Sarah Darer Littman’s latest MUST READ column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruptionin this weekend’s CT Newsjunkie, Sarah Darer Littman shines the bright light of truth on a complex deal in which Bridgeport ’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

By the time their effort is over, the cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, and that doesn’t even begin to count the cost to Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents who are but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.

Sarah Darer Littman introduces her piece with the following,

If the window of government transparency in Connecticut has become foggy lately, in Bridgeport it’s turned into a funhouse mirror.

The latest to come from Mayor Bill Finch’s Carnival of Corruption was a vote Thursday evening to proceed with phase one of a deal to build a new Harding High School on 17.2 acres of a 78-acre brownfield site on Boston Avenue, currently owned by General Electric. This would enable Finch and his allies to sell the current Harding High site to Bridgeport Hospital.

According to federal law, a brownfield site refers to “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

The aforementioned brownfield site is, according to a piece in the CT Post, “contaminated with lead, arsenic, petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile compounds.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers helpful information about School Siting Guidelines, and why they are so important:

“Children, particularly younger children, are uniquely at risk from environmental hazards. They eat, drink and breathe more in proportion to their body size than adults. In addition, environmental contaminants may affect children disproportionately because their immune, respiratory and other systems are not fully developed, and their growing organs are more easily harmed. This means they are more at risk for exposure to harmful chemicals found outside where they play and in the environment where they spend most of their time — school and home.”

As might be expected, parents and those representing the community have concerns — especially since most of the process for this deal (like so much of what goes on in Bridgeport) has taken place behind closed doors. Indeed, in the minutes from the Bridgeport School Building Committee meeting on January 3, 2013, Finch Deputy Chief of Staff Ruben Felipe reports that GE asked the administration to keep their conversations confidential. Thus both the sunlight and the community were kept out. Helping to keep things under wraps was the fact that the School Building Committee failed to file their statutory notices with the town clerk’s office until February 2014, evidenced by this email from Frances Ortiz, assistant City Clerk.

There’s been some gob smacking chicanery involved, because, let’s face it, this wouldn’t be Bridgeport if there weren’t.

A petition to the City of Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission was filed in the name of the City of Bridgeport Board of Education (File 13-74). It was signed on Dec. 3, 2013, by John Eberle of Stantec Consulting Services and on Dec. 18, 2013, by Marian Whiteman, executive counsel for Transactions & Brownfields at General Electric.

On Jan. 13, 2014, Sauda Baraka, chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education (in whose name the Planning Petition was apparently being made) wrote to Melville T. Riley, Jr, the acting chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, asking that the item not go forward with a public hearing for the application because the education board hadn’t voted to approve a site plan nor a special permit concerning that property. In what is a reflection of the incredibly sad state of affairs in Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport, she was forced to ask the Planning Commission for copies of any application filed on the behalf of the Board of Education. How ridiculous is it that an elected Board of Education should have to ask another city body for copies of planning applications being filed in its name?

Probably as a result of Baraka’s letter, the planning application was withdrawn from the Jan. 13 meeting.

But by Jan. 16, the Finch administration was able to work magic with fairy dust — or White Out — and Lo! The exact same application with the exact same signatures (on the original you can see the correction fluid) and now guess what? It reads “City of Bridgeport School Building Committee”!  Suggested new campaign slogan for Bill Finch: “If you can’t beat ‘em, erase them!”

And Sarah Darer Littman’s column goes on from there with some of the most disturbing elements of the story yet to come.

You can read her whole column at via the following link,

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_environmental_racism_of_bridgeports_carnival_of_corruption/?utm_source=CTNewsJunkie.com&utm_campaign=a3172ccfcf-FNF_302_Feb_21_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a493d2308d-a3172ccfcf-92882173

As you read the piece ask yourself, is this Connecticut our citizens deserve?

Steve Perry adds “therapist” to his title of “educator” and author

18 Comments

Steve Perry calls himself American’s most trusted educator. 

While Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers pay him a full-time salary and benefits to serve as the principal of the Hartford School System’s Capital Prep Magnet School, Perry skips about 20% of the school days so that he can travel the country giving speeches for hire.

When Perry does show up for work he spends an inordinate amount of his time promoting his speaking business through media interviews and his obsessive use of Twitter while on public time.

Most recently, Perry has been busy pushing a plan to use his private company to open up a charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Local support for his plan comes from corporate education reform industry ally Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Finch’s campaign treasurer, Kenneth Moales.  Moales tried and failed to get his own charter school last year, but has used his position on the Bridgeport Board of Education to push the charter school agenda.

Just this past Thursday, Steve Perry was out-of-state giving a speech and holding a book signing session at Winston Salem State University.

The Thursday before Perry was the keynote speaker at a conference at Kent State University in Ohio.

For that one, Perry was introduced at an author, principal and CNN education contributor.

The description went on to say that, “Perry is the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., which has been cited by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top schools in the country. Capital Prep has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.”

But of course, that statement is patently untrue.

Capital Prep HAS NOT sent 100% of its graduates to four year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

Today Perry is northern Virginia to give the keynote address at the annual VABHMA Gala Reception.

And this time Perry’s bio has been expanded to proclaim that he is not only an educator and author, but that he is also a therapist.

The event biography leads with the following:

Dr. Steve Perry’s heart pumps passion and produces positive change. Featured in CNN’s Black in America series, Dr. Perry is the most talked about innovative educator on the scene today.

Perry is the founder and principal of what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in the country, Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. Capital Prep has sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

100% of Capital Prep’s graduates have gone to four year colleges?

Despite the fact that falsifying and padding one’s resume has downed a number of politicians over the years, some individuals apparently continue to believe that they don’t have to live by the same standards, rules and laws that apply to the rest of us.

No real financial support for public schools, but plenty more for charter schools (especially Bridgeport)

16 Comments

When Dan Malloy was running for governor he pledged to make adequate funding for Connecticut’s public schools a priority.

Instead Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education corporate education reform industry initiative of any Democratic governor in the country.

Rather than use state education funds to support local schools and take some of the pressure off local taxpayers, Malloy has used scarce public funds to push his own initiatives including implementing the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing scheme and an unfair and inappropriate teacher evaluation system.

Compounding the problem has been Malloy’s devotion to diverting money to Connecticut’s charter schools.  In fact, the single largest beneficiary of Malloy’s charter school largesse has been Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

But Malloy and Pryor have been shoveling public funds to other charter school companies as well.

The charter school management company known as Jumoke Academy/FUSE has been given additional money and control of two neighborhood public schools.  The executives of Jumoke Academy have been given management control of the Milner Elementary School in Hartford and the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.  The Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE was even appointed to the Connecticut Board of Education by Governor Malloy.

Meanwhile, other charter school companies have already been approved or are seeking approval to open new schools in Connecticut.

Last month, nine new charter school applications were submitted to the State Department of Education.

Despite the inadequate funding for existing public schools and a projected $1 billion state deficit for the year following this November’s gubernatorial election, Malloy’s budget includes funding for at least two new charter schools.

A primary target for the expansion of charter schools has been Bridgeport, in part because Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is considered a strong charter school advocate.  Bridgeport already has four charter schools.

As the Connecticut Post recently reported;

“BRIDGEPORT — An outspoken Hartford magnet school principal, a Rhode Island education reform advocate and a longtime city teacher who also happens to be the mayor’s ex, all want the same thing: open the state’s next charter school here.

The three applications represent a third of nine applications received by the state to open charter schools this fall or next….”

[…]

The new plans include two schools prepared to open next fall if they receive approval — the Capital Prep Harbor School, modeled after a Hartford magnet school run by Stephen Perry and the STEAM Academy for Girls, started by Claire Mastromonaco, a fifth-grade teacher at Johnson School, who is also the ex-wife of Mayor Bill Finch.

A third contender is Great Oaks Charter School, a school spearheaded by Maryellen Butke, founding director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now.”

Charter school companies see Connecticut as a prime target for expansion because not only does the state give charter schools money for every student they take in, but the cost to transport those charter school students and the cost to provide them with special education services continues to be paid by the local school district.

The Connecticut Post article goes on to summarize the three new Bridgeport charter school proposals;

Charter School Proposal #1

“STEAM

Mastromonaco said she has always wanted to start a school for girls. A classroom teacher for 18 years, Mastromonaco also runs the Children’s Center for the Arts. Her background is in the arts, but she loves the sciences and math and said she sees too many of her female students lose confidence and “check out” by the time they reach middle school.

She said a single-gender school that focuses on science, math and the arts will help them more feel confident.

STEAM would open in the former Holy Rosary School near Washington Park with 108 pre-kindergarten through first-graders and grow to a 252 pre-K to fifth-grade school by its fifth year. The school would strive to be racially balanced, draw from the suburbs and city. Its preschool would be Montessori-based.

Christopher Finch, her son and a teacher in New York City, would serve on her governing board along with several Bridgeport educators and parents.

In a letter of support for STEAM, Bruce Ravage, director of Park City Prep, a charter school that has won permission to add a fifth grade, said Mastromonaco knows the student population well and is in a unique position to address its needs.”

Charter School Proposal #2

“Capital Prep Harbor School

Asked why he’d want to come to Bridgeport, Perry, a lightning rod for school reform issues, talks about the city’s waterfront location, proximity to New York City and its potential.

“Bridgeport has always been one of those cities you heard about,” Perry said. The charter school he would form here would be modeled after the public magnet school he has run in Hartford for nearly 10 years.

It would have a theme of social justice, a longer school day and year, require students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities, and would strive — according to the 600-page application — to send all graduates to four-year colleges.

“Running it as a charter would be different,” said Perry. “It would create the opportunity for us to be more creative. Quite frankly, there are limits within the structure of a large school system. Even when people don’t want it to, it has to be the same. That sameness presents a challenge to schools like ours.”

Something else that is different is that Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., a private management company run by Perry, would get 10 percent of the fee, $2.5 million over the first five years of the contract. Perry said that is common when charter firms run more than one school. It also remains unclear how much the school would pay for rent.

The Harbor School application said the city has dedicated space in the Bridgeport Technology and Trade Center on Barnum Avenue and the proposed budget shows no rental expenses. The city, however, doesn’t own that property.

Among supporters of the plan are Kenneth Moales Jr., a member of the city school board.”

Charter School Proposal #3

“Great Oaks

Great Oaks would be a college preparatory school geared largely toward English language learners, who make up more than 13 percent of students in the district.

The school day would be long, stretching from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., followed by after-school activities. The school year would be 200 days, compared to the normal 180 days a year.

There are already Great Oaks schools in New Jersey and New York, said Christina Grant, vice president of the Great Oaks Foundation, who acts a chief academic officer for both schools. The school would start with 100 sixth-graders and work its way up, providing two hours of individualized tutoring to students every day, according to the application.

It would also be located in the former Singer Factory on Barnum Avenue, where three other city charter schools (Bridge Academy, New Beginnings and Park City Prep) all got their start. Great Oaks would pay $10 a square foot for 6,366 square feet. It wants to open in the fall of 2015. Its management fee built into its budget would amount to $1.6 million over the five years.

One of the many letters of support for the proposal came from Meghan Lowney, executive director of the Zoom Foundation, and a behind-the-scenes player when the city school board was taken over by the state in 2011. Great Oaks’ plans, she wrote, are aligned with her efforts to rapidly improve public education opportunities for underserved children by pooling and leveraging financial, human and political capital.”

Although public hearings are required on each proposal, the decision to approve or reject a proposal rests with the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.   The charter school law severely limits the role of local boards of education.

 

 

Who is pushing Capital Prep Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor Charter School application?

14 Comments

According to the charter school application submitted by Steve Perry’s private charter school Management Company;

 “The Capital Prep Harbor School (the “Harbor School”) is designed as a replication of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School (“Capital Prep”) in Hartford, Connecticut.  The founders of Capital Prep have developed an internationally recognized model designed to prepare children from historically disadvantaged populations to compete and ‘win’ in education.  Capital Prep has proven that all children when given the right conditions and environment not only succeed but excel in their academic as well as their social-emotional growth.”

As the Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education consider Steve Perry’s 600 page application to open a new charter school in Bridgeport, their first task will be to overlook the fact that Perry’s Hartford Prep Magnet School refuses to provide equal access to Latinos and other children who deal with English language barriers.

Perry’s Hartford school also fails to take its fair share of students who need special education services, and it is alleged that the special education students Capital Prep does enroll don’t get the services mandated in their Individual Education Plans (IEPs). There are widespread rumors that Capital Prep is being investigated as a result of its utter failure to meet federal and state special education laws.

The data on Capital Prep’s failure to provide equal access is stark and extremely disturbing;

2011-2012 Hartford School System Capital Prep Magnet School
     
Latino Students 49.7% 21.7%
     
Students not Fluent in English (ELL) 18% 3.4%
     
Students who come from homes where English is not the primary language 39.7% ?
     
Special Education Students 13.5 6.3%
     

 

In addition, the disciplinary tactics utilized at Capital Prep Magnet School have raised equally serious concerns.  Students being forced to sit at the “Table of Shame,” students being required to stand while eating lunch, students being made to state during entire academic classes and students being made to stand facing the wall for long periods of time in administrators offices are all examples of disciplinary policies that may cross into child abuse.

Perry’s charter school application reports that he and his senior staff have been working with Bridgeport officials and community leaders for months.  The application reads;

“Founding members continuously met with local officials, including Mayor Bill Finch and his Education Adviser, Joshua Thompson, as well as local community-based organizations, religious leaders and representatives from Housatonic Community College.”

So who are these Bridgeport supporters?

Listed as Governing Council Members for Perry’s new Charter School are;

Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr., Senior Pastor Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

  • As directly quoted from his resume, Moales also lists himself as CEO/Founder C.R.E.A.M. Inc. and says that in that capacity he, “Earned endorsement from Mayor, local newspaper, Democratic District leaders and Democratic Clubs in Bridgeport CT for Board of Education” and “Exhibited tireless energy, positive attitude and visionary leadership” and “Revamped entire department bringing in all new Commissioner.” 
  •  Kenneth Moales Jr. who continues to serve on the Bridgeport Board of Education is also Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer.

Reverend Carl McCluster, Senior Pastor Shiloh Baptist Church, Bridgeport

  • McCluster also lists himself as Founder, Managing Director, Senior Program office for F.R.E.E.D.O.M. Inc. a National Economic Development Consulting Firm

Reverend William McCullough, Senior Paster Russell Temple CME Church in Bridgeport.

  • McCullough also lists himself as the Founder and CEO of U-Turn Ministries, FaithCARE and Safe Streets Kids (SSK)

Teresa Wilson, Executive Director V.I.P. College Preparatory Program, Inc., Bridgeport CT.

Wilson reports that she coordinates “college tours for areas high school students” and “collaborates(s) with various school districts and school administration in selection of students to attend tour….”

Gwendolyn Brantley, ACCESS Education Services, Bridgeport, CT.

Brantley’s adds her duties are to “Administer and manage an academic enrichment program for middle and high school students.”

Meanwhile, appended to Perry’s charter school application are a series of letters of support.  They come from:

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch who writes, “As Mayor of Bridgeport, I am writing to express my full support of the proposal of by Capital Prep Harbor School to open a state charter school in fall of 2014 that will serve the children and families of Bridgeport.  I am honored by the decision of the Capital Prep team to bring their outstanding academic model to Bridgeport within the context of a top-tier high school program…”

Other letters of support are from:

State Representative Charles Clemons

Teresa Wilson writing on behalf of the VIP College Prep Program. (Note that Wilson serves on the proposed charter school’s Governing Council.)

Reverend Carl McCluster writing on behalf of Shiloh Baptist Church. (Note that McCluster serves on the proposed charter school’s Governing Council.)

Gwendolyn Brantley writing on behalf of ACCESS Education Services.  (Note that Brantley serves on the proposed charter school’s Governing Council.)

And Kenneth Jackson, founder of Kenneth Jackson’s Mentoring Services

Considering that Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, has consistently supported charter schools at the expense of public district schools and has ducked his obvious conflict of interest when it comes to his support for charter schools, it will be interesting to watch whether Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are successful in railroading this controversial and flawed charter school application through the State Board of Education.

Stay tuned…

Older Entries