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

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

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

The list of applicants includes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the truth paints a very different picture.

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

NEWS FLASH: Hedge fund founder buys leadership ‘pipeline’ in Malloy’s office

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Don Michak of the Journal Inquirer newspaper has a blockbuster story on the way Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the corporate education reform industry have contaminated the public policy making process in Connecticut.

The JI story, entitled, Hedge fund founder buys leadership ‘pipeline’ in Malloy’s office, raises extraordinary legal and ethical issues about the possibility of illegal lobbying and ethics violations, as well as shines a light on how a billionaire Malloy donor is not only giving the Governor campaign cash but paying for Malloy staff who are in the unique position to help push the corporate education reform industry’s agenda.

Don Michak explains:,

“A hedge fund billionaire’s private foundation is paying three “fellows” to develop public policy in the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and two state departments.

The arrangement is eye-catching because the foundation is bankrolled by Stephen F. Mandel Jr., the founder of the Lone Pine Capital hedge fund in Greenwich and one of the biggest financial backers of Malloy’s Democratic Party.

But it also is extraordinary because of the controversial role Mandel’s foundation and its executive director, Meghan K. Lowney, played in Connecticut’s education policy — particularly in the state’s failed takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Asked if those developments pose conflicts or, more simply, the potential for political backlash, Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba responded that the program sponsored by Mandel’s Zoom Foundation is “a learning opportunity for aspiring leaders and public servants to get a unique view at the executive level of state government.”

“Outside of recruiting great fellows and providing outside leadership training to the fellows, Zoom has no influence on the fellows’ work with the state,” he said. “As a foundation, there is a prohibition of advocacy and lobbying for the fellows which is made abundantly clear from the start and reinforced through the yearlong fellowship.”

Doba compared the governor’s arrangement with Zoom to that of “several similar learning opportunities in other states, cities, and at the federal level like the White House Fellows Program.” He said Malloy’s office previously hosted a fellow from the Dukakis Governor’s Summer Fellows Program through the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, “which is funded privately.”

Reminded of the role played in Bridgeport by Mandel’s second “charitable trust,” the Lone Pine Foundation, Doba said the governor’s office works only with Zoom.

“The fellows do a variety of work from staffing task forces, research, grants management, project coordination, among many other assignments with a view to ‘executive experience,”’ he said. “They do not replace a job that would normally be done by a state employee, whether in our office or an agency.”

As Wait What? readers will recall, Mandel and his aide, Meghan Lowney, played the pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform advocacy group that supported Malloy’s education reform bill, worked to pass Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s failed charter revision proposal to do away with an elected board of education in Bridgeport and has been the biggest boosters for Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales Jr, the disgraced former chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Excel Bridgeport’s incorporation papers revealed that the lobby group was formed by Meghan Lowney and that its corporate address was also Lowney’s address.  Since then, Nate Snow, the Director of the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America has become Excel Bridgeport’s President, although Lowney remains on the board of directors.

Billionaire Steve Mandel is also on the Teach for America’s  Board of Directors and helped finance Finch’s failed charter revision campaign.

As reported here at Wait, What? and in the Journal Inquirer, Mandel has also donated the maximum allowable amount ($10,000) to the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

In addition, as the JI goes on to explain;

“Lowney was a key figure in the brouhaha over public schools in Bridgeport in 2011 and 2012. Basically, the city’s Board of Education, stalemated and facing an $18 million budget shortfall, voted to dissolve itself, backed by what the Wall Street Journal called “well-funded outside interests.” A state-appointed board subsequently brought in a new superintendent, but the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that the state’s takeover was illegal and ordered a special election.

Lowney, together with Nate Snow, the executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Teach for America, had founded Excel Bridgeport, a proponent of the state takeover. One of the biggest opponents of that move, retired state Superior Court Judge Carmen L. Lopez, dubbed Lowney “the conspirator in chief”’ of the “coup that led to the illegal removal of a democratically elected Board of Education by the state.”

Moreover, the Connecticut Post reported that emails showed that Lowney initially introduced herself to state education officials as an agent of the Mandels, saying they had joined with other funders to revise the city’s education charter to give control to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, a political ally of Malloy.

Although there were numerous emails between Lowney and officials within the Malloy administration, Meghan Lowney never registered as a lobbyist nor filed the required lobbying reports.

You can read Don Michak’s story at: http://www.journalinquirer.com/page_one/hedge-fund-founder-buys-leadership-pipeline-in-malloy-s-office/article_3994ac24-8cf9-11e3-949d-001a4bcf887a.html

Check back for updates because there is MUCH MORE to this story than has been revealed so far.

Need a TFA recruit? New Haven that will be $2,500… Windham you’ll have to kick in $4,000

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In 2011, Teach for America brought in $306.8 million in revenue, up 14 percent from the year before.

TFA brags that only 20 percent of their money goes to fundraising and administration.

As of two years ago, Wendy Koop, TFA’s CEO and co-founder, pulled down $448,000 in salary and benefits.  Her co-founder, Matthew Kramer made another $356,000.  The next thirteen administrators collected salary and benefit packages ranging from $281,000 to $194,000 a year.

Teach for America’s federal financial reports are not particularly clear but it appears that in 2011 they received about $28.7 million for what they call “Fee for Service” revenue.

One assumes that is the money they collect from school districts for recruiting and placing TFA recruits in poor, urban districts around the nation.

While these finder’s fees appear to account for less than 10 percent of their total revenue, $28.7 million is … well, $28.7 million.

But as readers learned thanks to two recent Wait, What? posts, not every community is treated the same when it comes to what they have to pay to get a TFA recruit.

Having now acquired the Teach For America contracts from New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport and Windham, the number of questions about TFA’s practices is growing by the moment.

According to these TFA contracts, New Haven paid $2,500 for each of the TFA recruits the “non-profit” entity provided the New Haven school system last year.

At the very same time, TFA was charging Hartford $3,000.  In Hartford, TFA’s finder’s fee is going to stay the same for the duration of their existing contract.

But Bridgeport’s taxpayers are not so lucky.  And considering 80 percent of Bridgeport’s school budget is paid for by state taxpayers, the higher rates in Bridgeport are as much of a state issue as they are a local one.

Last Spring Paul Vallas signed a contract with TFA that committed the Bridgeport school system to pay TFA a finder’s fee of $3,000 per year, per recruit.  The amount Bridgeport must pay goes up to $3,105 in 2014 and $3,214 in 2015.

But that amount is relatively minor compared to what TFA is charging Windham, thanks to Special Master Steven Adamowski. Windham was required to pay $4,000 per recruit this year or 33 percent more than what Hartford and Bridgeport paid and 60 percent more than what New Haven paid.

While the finder fee issue is interesting enough, some of the contract language in the TFA contracts is equally bizarre.

List under “Credentialing Services,” the contracts states that, “Teach for America shall facilitate the enrollment of individual Teachers in an alternative certification/licensure program that will enable the individual Teacher to obtain appropriate credentials to be a classroom teacher of record.”

That makes sense…. If taxpayers are going to pay Teach for America to place teachers in our cities, rather than going through an open recruitment and hiring process, TFA should at least be responsible for making sure that teachers are getting their legally mandated credentials.

But the very next section of the contract reads, “Teach for America shall not be responsible for, and shall not be in breach of any provision of this Agreement, in the event of any failure by an individual Teacher to fulfill his/her obligations to maintain his/her teaching credentials.”

So TFA will get their recruits oriented in the right direction but they take no responsibility for making sure the recruits actually do the work necessary to get or maintain their credentials.

And if that isn’t strange enough, the contract goes on to read, “Non-Refund:  Teach for America shall have no obligation to refund to School District any amount paid by School District in respect of any Teacher for any reason whatsoever.  For the avoidance of doubt, School District will be invoiced fees for each of the individual Teacher(s) initially employed by the School District.”

Wait, what?

If the teacher doesn’t make it through day one TFA keeps their finder’s fee?

And then comes the ultimate kicker…

Even though the four contracts lay out the maximum number of positions that TFA recruits will take away from our ownm home-grown, Connecticut trained young teachers, each contract includes the following language…

“In the even that Teach for America supplies the School District with any Teachers above the Agreed Number, School District agrees to pay the agreed upon fees for the additional Teachers.”

So even if the contract says there will only be 20 TFA teachers, there appears to be an escape clause that allows school administrators and TFA to sneak in more.

So now the question is….

How many TFA recruits have been placed in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport and Windham?

Check back because we’ll find out sooner rather than later!

Think Bridgeport’s TFA issue is bad, try Windham’s

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As reported yesterday and reprinted in today’s Washington Post, thanks to a deal between Paul Vallas and Nate Snow, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America, Bridgeport hired another 31 TFA recruits this week.  The contract Vallas signed last spring committed the City of Bridgeport to hire 125 mostly out-of-state TFA recruits rather than give Connecticut residents, who have graduated with teaching certificates from Connecticut colleges, a chance to get these jobs. 

You can find yesterday’s Wait, What? post reprinted here: The Washington Post. 8-29-13

Thanks to the Vallas/TFA Bridgeport contract, Nate Snow’s Teach for America collected a cool $750,000 in finder’s fees for the effort.

But as insulting as that is to Connecticut’s new teachers and Bridgeport taxpayers, across the state, Governor Malloy’s Special Master for Windham, Steven Adamowski, signed a deal with Teach for America that is proportionately even more lucrative.

The Adamowski/TFA contract “only” calls for giving 20 Windham teaching jobs to TFA recruits rather than to new Connecticut teachers but the “fee” Windham must pay TFA is $4,000 per hear instead of the “$3,000 per year TFA is charging Bridgeport.  Neither Adamowski nor TFA clarify why Windham taxpayers are paying 33 percent more than are the taxpayers of Bridgeport.

But the bottom line is the same; With hundreds of new graduates from Connecticut’s teacher preparation programs, the state’s highest ranking education officials are literally using taxpayer funds to give away good paying jobs to people who, for the most part, don’t come from Connecticut, didn’t get their college education in Connecticut and didn’t even major in education.

Meanwhile, since taking office, Governor Malloy has pushed through the deepest state funding cuts in Connecticut history for our public colleges and universities.  As a result, Connecticut families are paying even more to attend UConn, Central, Southern, Eastern, Western and our state’s community colleges.  Earning a teaching degree at the University of Connecticut, while living on campus, could now cost as much as $125,000.

And how does Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and state appointed administrators like Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski reward that commitment and dedication…they pay TFA to recruit non-teachers to fill what few job openings that there are out there.

Perhaps the most interesting fact of all is that Special Master Adamowski only assigned the TFA recruits to teach Windham students, a town with a disproportionately large minority and Latino student population.

The Windham Board of Education opened a beautiful new STEM magnet school this week.  As a magnet school, students from throughout the region are allowed to attend.  So how many TFA recruits did Adamowski assign to teach at the magnet school?   ZERO.

The TFA recruits were assigned to teach the students who didn’t get into the magnet school, while the magnet school was staffed primarily with longer-term Windham teachers who were transferred from the other district schools to the new magnet.

Finally, in response to a reader’s question about whether the minimally trained TFA recruits are paid less than traditional new teachers, the TFA contract between Bridgeport and Windham states;

“Every Teacher employed by School District as described in this Agreement shall be a full-time employee of School District with all of the rights, responsibilities and legal protections attendant to that status and not an employee of Teach for America. “

“School District shall provide to every Teacher employed by School District pursuant to this Agreement the same salary and benefits (including, as applicable, health, dental, vision and retirement) as are provided to other teachers employed by School District…”

“Subject to its obligations under pre-existing labor agreements…School Districts shall use reasonable efforts not to terminate any employed Teacher from his/her teaching position in the event of a reduction in force (RIF), layoffs, “leveling” or other elimination or consolidation of teaching positions within School District.  School District shall treat any Teacher employed in connection with this Agreement whose teaching position is eliminated at least as favorably as other teachers…”

So, the answer, in short, is that these TFA recruits immediately acquire the same rights and privileges of those who have actually gone through a full Connecticut teacher preparation program.

UPDATE – Bridgeport Bd. Of Ed. may postpone vote on Charter Proposal

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A late report is that the Board may postpone vote on new Montessori Charter School…

check back for additional details.

 

Doing to Bridgeport what he did to New Orleans

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Paul Vallas has pledged to do to Bridgeport what he did to New Orleans.  However, there is still time to stop him.

Paul Vallas was the CEO of the New Orleans Recovery School District of Louisiana from 2007 to 2011…

According to his resume, Vallas says he was responsible for “developing, implementing and managing reform measures” for post-Katrina New Orleans.  In that capacity Vallas says, among other things, that he:

(1)   “raised test scores three consecutive years, at a growth rate that greatly exceeded that of the state” and

(2)    “Implemented Response to Intervention (RTI) model, a three-tiered approach to ensuring the academic success of all students.”

So how is New Orleans doing today?

As Diane Ravitch recently noted on her blog, as a result of Vallas’ strategies, “New Orleans has a higher proportion of students in privately managed charters than any other district in the nation.”

Eighty-three percent (83%) of the schools in the New Orleans Recovery School District are now charter schools. According to the state’s school performance index, the Recovery School District of New Orleans is less than 2 points above getting a grade of F.

In fact, six years after Vallas began to promote his “Vallas Turnaround Model,” a Louisiana Education Research Group called Research on Reforms, determined that 79% of the charter schools in the Recovery School District were graded D or F by the state.

Meanwhile, another research group, The Cowen Institute of Tulane University, which has traditionally been a major supporter of charter schools, reported that 66% of the Recovery School District Charter Schools rated D or F.

The failing grades that hound Vallas’ charter school model is just the tip of a much larger record of failure when it comes to the broader “reforms” that Vallas implemented in New Orleans and now seeks to recreate in Bridgeport.

Teacher and Education Blogger, Mercedes Schneider, has written extensively on the real situation surrounding the “Vallas Miracle.”  You can read her blog at: Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog

In one recent example she explored a favorite claim of the education reformers, who are fond of saying that their efforts dramatically improve the number of poor children who attend college.

According to the latest numbers, the percentage of children who qualified for the Louisiana TOPS program, which provides funds to academically proficient students who want to attend 4 or 2 year colleges stands at 42%;

TOPS eligibility for students in New Orleans is as follows:

Recovery School District state-run schools: 14%

Recovery School district Charter Schools: 29%

Orleans Parish direct-run schools: 38%

Orleans Parish Charter Schools 54%

All New Orleans schools: 37%

Louisiana schools overall: 42%

As Schneider explains, “Prior to Katrina in 2005, all New Orleans schools in the subcategories above belonged to Orleans Parish Public Schools. Now, one can see that in general, charter schools fare better than their corresponding non-charter counterparts regarding percentages of students eligible for TOPS. This is hardly surprising since students can be deselected from charters and returned to traditional public schools…The traditional public school must accept all students– this is both the glory and the burden of traditional public schooling.”

So, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars,  Vallas’ turnaround model has created a system in which the charter schools of New Orleans have “improved” TOPS eligibility while completely undermining the traditional public school system.

When the data is analyzed, the Vallas Turnaround Model is not a tribute to improving public education, but a lesson in privatization by replacing failing public schools with failing charter schools and creating a two-tiered education system where certain students get access to higher performing institutions, while leaving all the other students behind.

Vallas is moving forward with a similar strategy in Bridgeport.  In just the last few weeks we’ve seen aggressive efforts to expand charter schools in Bridgeport including a new charter elementary school, a plan to turn over another elementary school to the FUSE/Jumoke Academy of Hartford and a proposal by the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Kenneth Moales, Jr. to create a boys-only charter school that would augment his present church affiliated school.

For the latest Bridgeport’s new charter school proposal see: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Charter-plan-draws-impassioned-arguments-4534361.php and http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Against-proposed-new-charter-school-4535321.php.

Of course, this all comes on top of continued expansion of the Achievement First Charter School in Bridgeport.

Education reformers are busy trying to replicate the New Orleans model around the country.   Here in Connecticut, Paul Vallas has the strong backing of Governor Malloy and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

But unlike in New Orleans, and places like Chicago and Philadelphia, here in Connecticut there is still time to stop them before it is too late.

Connecticut TFA Director wants to open a charter school…in Bridgeport

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Yup, the Connecticut Director of Teach for America has submitted an application to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Nate Snow arrived in Bridgeport in 2007 as a new TFA recruit.

Today he serves as the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and President of the Board of Directors of Excel Bridgeport, Inc., a corporate funded education reform organization that he co-founded with Meghan Lowney, an aide to billionaire, hedge fund owner Steven Mandel.

Excel Bridgeport serves as the primary advocacy group supporting Governor Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch and “Superintendent of Schools” Paul Vallas’ education reform policies.

After graduating from Texas A&M University, Snow joined TFA and taught for two years in Bridgeport.  He then joined TFA’s fundraising operation and then made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Snow and Vallas recently signed a three-year contract between the Bridgeport Board of Education and Teach for America for $777,000, although the contract was never provided to the Board for their review and approval.  Team Vallas is claiming he has the authority to sign the contract without Board involvement.

And meanwhile, despite having no experience in school administration, Snow is the lead name on a charter school application that is pending before Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Snow’s proposal is to create a Montessori Charter School for children between the ages of three and thirteen.

As to Snow’s connection to TFA and Excel Bridgeport, a recent CT Post article reported that “The charter school idea, he said, is his own.”

According to their proposal, “Whittier’s Montessori program is inspired by the design and implementation of Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School (AFMMS), a high-performing public Montessori school in Hartford, Connecticut. Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School has distinguished itself by meeting high standards of student achievement through a meticulous, fully implemented Montessori program.”

Stephen Adamowski, who according to emails acquired through a Freedom of Information request, worked with Snow around Malloy’s education reform bill, was a strong proponent of Hartford’s Montessori school and now, as Malloy’s Special Master for Windham and New London has been working hard to get Windham to switch one of its elementary schools over to a Montessori school.

In the new Montessori charter school application, the proponents explain how they developed the plan saying, “Prior to preparing for this submission, none of the founders had worked with a Montessori school, but they knew that it was a good brand with an excellent reputation. Starting with a visit to the acclaimed Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, then undertaking conversations with parents who have children in private Montessori school in Fairfield County, and ending with informal consultations with Montessori leaders from around the country, the Founding members became convinced that Montessori should be an option for all children in Bridgeport. Nate Snow contacted the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), located in Hartford, for further information on what was necessary to start a public Montessori school. These discussions led to an eventual contract with NCMPS to assist in school design and to aid in writing the charter application.”

The charter school proposal aims to start with 69 students next fall and reach 209 students in its fifth year.  Their budget calls for expending $1.7 million in year one and at least $3.8 million in year five.

While state charter schools get their money primarily from a state grant, Snow and his colleagues are trying to open a “local” charter school, meaning the funds would come mostly from Bridgeport’s school budget, with an extra $3,000 per student coming from a new state “local charter grant” that was part of Malloy’s education reform law.  Malloy’s education reform law also included a series of $500,000 “start-up grants” that charter schools could get from the state.  Snow and company are counting on getting one of those grants, as well.

In addition, the cost of transportation and special education costs would be paid for by the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Bridgeport is already well into the 60 day local charter review process.  The application, if approved, would then go to Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the state Board of Education.

As to the various players behind the proposal, Wait What? readers may recall that starting in January 2011, Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Excel Bridgeport worked to persuade the Connecticut State Board of Education to take over the Bridgeport School System.  Over the course of the six months leading up to the State Board of Education’s illegal takeover, Lowney, Snow and Excel Bridgeport engaged in numerous communications with state officials.

Despite their ongoing lobbying, both before and during the illegal takeover and throughout the effort to persuade legislators to support Malloy’s education reform bill, neither Lowney, Snow nor Excel Bridgeport registered to lobby with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, as required by law.

More than two weeks after the end of the 2012 Legislative session, Excel Bridgeport finally filed the required papers, listing Jorge Cabrera as the organization’s lead lobbyist.

Excel Bridgeport, a group initially called the Bridgeport Partnership for School Success, Inc., was created in December 2010 and then changed its name to Excel Bridgeport Inc. in September 2011.

According to its incorporation papers, Meghan Lowney, the Executive Director of the Zoom Foundation, (the personal foundation of Fairfield County billionaire Stephen Mandel), was registered as Excel Bridgeport, Inc.’s founding president and Nathan Snow, the Executive Director of Connecticut’s Teach for America Chapter served as the organization’s founding vice president.

Snow then took over the role as Excel’s president.   A board was also created made up of Jonathan Hayes (Executive, Meetinghouse Productions), Joel Green (Partner, Green & Gross, PC), Robert Francis (Executive Director, RYASAP), Carl Horton, Jr. (Consultant, Accenture), Scott Hughes (City Librarian, Bridgeport Public Library), Meghan Lowney (Executive Director, ZOOM Foundation) and Joseph McGee (Vice President, Fairfield County Business Council).  Like Snow, Francis, the Executive Director of RYASAP, also has a contract with the Bridgeport Board of Education.

As of now, Lowney and Snow have still not registered to lobby despite their ongoing efforts to influence public policy.

Meanwhile, faced with inadequate state resources, and Mayor Finch’s need to come up with $3.2 million more just to meet the state’s minimum local expenditure law, it will be interesting to see if Paul Vallas, the Bridgeport Board of Education and Commissioner Stefan Pryor divert dollars to their colleague Nate Snow and his proposal for a new Montessori charter school.