Another Charter School Front Group – More apparent ethics law violations (Re-post)

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Here we go again… Yet another faux education advocacy group appears unwilling or unable to follow Connecticut’s ethics laws.

The number of corporate funded education reform and charter school front groups in Connecticut is popping up faster than the buds appear during a warm spring week and these groups seem virtually incapable of adhering to Connecticut’s ethics and lobbying laws.

You may need to read this post a few times to follow the bouncing ball…

It was just a few weeks ago that CT News Junkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman wrote a scathing column on the ethics problems associated with the New York based corporate education reform industry group called Families for Excellent Schools and its subsidiary, and entity called the Coalition for Every Child.

In the piece entitled, Are Charter Advocacy Groups Skirting CT Ethics Laws?, Darer Littman laid out the facts surrounding the Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child controversy.

The well-financed charter school advocacy group is the organization that is paying for the television ads promoting Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget that makes historic cuts to public education while dramatically increasing funding for charter schools.

The group was also one of the sponsors of this week’s pro-charter school rally at the State Capitol that featured Malloy.

As the Hartford Courant reported, charter school students and parents were bused in to Hartford from as far away as Boston and New York City in an attempt to persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more money so that Steve Perry could open a charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx charter school chain could open up a charter school in Stamford.

As Sarah Darer Littman explained, not only had Families for Excellent Schools run into ethics issues in New York, but they were failing to report activities and expenditures here in Connecticut.

Now it looks like another new charter school advocacy group called “FaithActs for Education” is failing to report its lobbying related activities as required under state law – violations that should be met with thousands of dollars in fines.

Although FaithActs for Education was rolled out on February 15, 2015 in a well-scripted press conference featuring Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and a number of Bridgeport ministers, the corporation called FaithActs for Education was actually formed in October 2014.

As the Connecticut Post reported in February, “With the public backing of Mayor Bill Finch, a faith-based education advocacy group, FaithActs for Education, conducted its first meeting on Monday declaring a dedication ‘to improving education for all children in Bridgeport, no matter what type of school they attend.’”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who participated in the event said,

“We know where we are and where we need to go. FaithActs for Education will help us to become even more of a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to supporting Governor Malloy’s education reform agenda and Mayor Bill Finch, as he faces a difficult re-election campaign, FaithActs for Education’s immediate work has been to support Steve Perry’s plan to open a publicly funded, but privately owned and operated charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a press release issued by FaithActs for Education, the entity is led by,

  • Reverend William McCullough, Pastor, Russell Temple CME Church
  • Bishop John P. Diamond, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Faith,
  • Reverend Janene Hawkins, Pastor, Walters Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church,
  • Reverend Carl McCluster, Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church,
  • Reverend Cass Shaw, President & CEO, Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport,
  • Reverend Jeremy L. Williams, Pastor, West End Tabernacle CME Church.
  • In addition, the infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales, Pastor, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is also playing a role with the group.

The organization’s chairman, Reverend McCullough, along with Reverend Moales and Reverend McCluster are all listed as original members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school in Bridgeport and all have been engaged in lobbying the State Board of Education and the General Assembly on Perry’s behalf.

Although we’re led to believe that FaithActs for Education is a homegrown group of religious leaders working to promote educational opportunities for all of Bridgeport’s children, the real story is very different.

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State, FaithActs for Education Inc. was created by Jamilah Prince-Stewart, who now serves as the entity’s Executive Director.

At the time of incorporation she served as the Director of Community Engagement for ConnCAN, Connecticut’s leading charter school lobby group.  In addition, FaithActs’ Director of Operations and Programs left her position as Special Projects Manager at ConnCAN to join the new advocacy group.

At the February 2015 press conference to roll out FaithActs for Education, both ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander and former ConnCAN CEO Alex Johnson were in attendance.

In addition to their lobbying work with ConnCAN, Alexander and Johnson were the individuals who formed A Better Connecticut, Inc. yet another education reform industry front group that spent more than $2 million on television ads during the year before the last gubernatorial election to “thank” Governor Malloy for his “leadership” on behalf of the corporate education reform agenda.

FaithActs’ initial press conference was orchestrated by the new group’s spokesman, Bob Bellafiore.

As public education advocate Maria Pereira noted at the time, Bellafiore is the founder of Stanhope Partners, an Albany PR firm that works for the charter school industry.

Before setting up his own company, he served as a Vice President of National Heritage Academies, a for-profit charter chain that owns and operates 75 charter schools in nine states, making it the third largest for-profit charter school company in the United States.

Just last year, National Heritage Academies made national news when it was discovered that it was charging one of its’ Brooklyn charter schools $2.3 million in rent per year even though it was leasing the property for much less.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, FaithActs for Education purports to be a, “grassroots organizing nonprofit based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We exist to help faith leaders and their congregations step outside their place of worship to advocate for improved educational opportunities for their own children and the children of Bridgeport.”

The organization’s rhetoric goes on to say that, “created as a 501(c)3 Foundation,” FaithActs receives funding from various foundations and individuals, although, to date, it has failed to reveal which foundations or individuals are underwriting the organization’s lobbying and advocacy activities.

FaithActs for Education also shares an address with Educators 4 Excellence, another corporate funded advocacy group that claims to speak for teachers who are opposed to tenure and other collective bargaining rights.  (See Wait, What? Post Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group)

But even if all of that wasn’t indicative enough of the power and inter-relationship of the corporate education reform industry, there is more….

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State’s Office, FaithActs for Education’s agent of service is its Executive Director, Jamilah Prince-Stewart.

However, rather than recording the organization’s actual physical office in Bridgeport for corporate related service issues, the official corporate filing lists the following;

FAITHACTS FOR EDUCATION,

C/O PUBLIC SQUARE PARTNERSHIP,

1730 COMMERCE DRIVE #706 SUITE C,

BRIDGEPORT, CT, 06605

Public Square Partnerships is a relatively new company whose agent of service is none-other-than Nate Snow, the Director of Teach for America’s Connecticut Chapter.  Snow also serves as President of Excel Bridgeport Inc., another Bridgeport based charter school advocacy group that had its own run-in with the Connecticut Ethics Commission when it failed to register with the Office of State Ethics despite the fact that it was lobbying state government in favor of Governor Malloy’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

Excel Bridgeport, Inc., along with Steve Perry supporter, Reverend Kenneth Moales, were the biggest supporters of education reform guru Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s inappropriately certified superintendent who was forced to leave after two years.  Vallas being best known for “charterizing” the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans schools system before being recruited by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to “save” Bridgeport.

Although based in Bridgeport, Public Square Partnership not only lists TFA Director Nate Snow as its agent, but they use Teach for America’s New Haven office address as their official agent of service.

According to their website, Public Square Partnerships “focuses its investments on innovative change efforts that have attained tangible results for children attending schools in high-need communities or that have the potential to do so for sustainable and scalable impact.”

The company adds, “We partner with education organizations that develop educators, schools, and engage parents and community members in creating high-quality schools.”

Public Square Partnerships further reports that in its first year of operation, the company had contracts to help five schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, three of which were public schools and two were charter schools.

Among its clients, we are told, are the new Booker T. Washington Charter School Academy in New Haven and the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport.

While Nate Snow serves as the Agent of Service for Public Square Partnerships, the President and CEO of the company is Diane Robinson who has spent the last twenty years working for the massive KIPP Charter School chain and Teacher for America.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer most recently worked as a Deputy Chief Portfolio Officer with the New York City Department of Education and before that was with the Washington DC Public Schools system.

The company’s third employee comes to Connecticut via the large education reform industry consulting firm called Schoolworks.

While more and more of the pieces of the puzzle come into view, the one thing that is absolutely clear is that there are a whole lot of organizations, spending a whole lot of money to further Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school and anti-teacher education reform agenda.

Forces behind effort to eliminate democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education donate to Kenneth Moales Jr.

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Let’s hear it for less democracy!

Just days before the voters of Bridgeport overwhelmingly defeated Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s bizarre 2012 proposal to eliminate the democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the Mayor, millionaire charter school champion Jonathan Sackler quietly wrote a personal check for $50,000 to help pay for the final set of mailings and advertisements designed to persuade Bridgeport voters to give up their right to vote for those who oversee their City’s public schools.

Now Jonathan Sackler and many of the same pro-charter, anti-public education, pro-corporate elite are pumping money into Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.’s campaign for State Senate with the goal of helping Moales qualify for a taxpayer-funded state campaign grant that he would use to pay for his campaign in the February 24th 2015 state senate special election.

It won’t come as any surprise to those who have watched the ongoing effort to undermine and denigrate the people of Bridgeport that the very same individuals and groups that worked so hard to take away democracy in Bridgeport and keep Paul Vallas in charge of Bridgeport’s schools are now working overtime to put Moales – a Malloy/Finch ally and disgraced former chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education – into the Connecticut State Senate.

The corporate elite, education reform industry and charter school advocates know that Kenneth Moales Jr. will be a safe vote for their anti-public education agenda, even if it means hurting the people of Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler, whose pharmaceutical company makes OxyContin, is a founding member of Achievement First, Inc., the large Charter School Management Company with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Sacker is also the corporate education reform industry advocate who formed ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.  Sackler was one of the largest donors to Finch’s anti-democracy effort and now he tops the list for Moales as well.

Another key player for Moales is Andy Boas, the Chairman of the Board for Achievement First – Bridgeport, a member of the ConnCAN Board of Directors and the founder of The Charter Oak Challenge Foundation.  In 2012 Boa was also one of the largest contributors to Finch’s campaign to do away with an elected school board in Bridgeport.

And now Boas and his wife, like Sacker and his wife, have both donated the maximum amount to Moales’ campaign.

In total, more than half a dozen of Moales’ largest campaign contributions have come from members of the Achievement First, Inc. or ConnCAN Boards of Directors.

Yet another major player in Finch’s failed charter revision effort was Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform group that lobbied for the illegal state takeover of Bridgeport’s schools and then dumped more than $101,000 to support of Finch’s charter revision effort to do away with a democratically elected board of education.  Excel Bridgeport’s founder, Megan Lowney, who is also one of Malloy’s political appointees, recently gave Moales the maximum donation allowed under law.

Others who helped pay for Finch’s failed anti-democracy campaign and are now stepping up with donations for Moales’ campaign include;

Paul Vallas and his wife (now re-located back to Illinois)

Robert Trefrey

Trefrey is the former President/CEO of Bridgeport Hospital.  Trefrey chaired the illegal board that was handed control of Bridgeport’s schools by Governor Malloy’s administration.  When the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Malloy’s attempt to take over the Bridgeport Schools was illegal, Malloy appointed Trefrey to the State Board of Education’s Committee that oversees the state’s technical high schools.  Bridgeport Hospital gave Finch’s charter revision campaign the maximum allowable donation, even at a time it was laying off staff.  Trefrey has not given Moales the maximum allowable contribution.

Jeremiah Grace

Grace is the Connecticut State Director of the Northeast Charter School Network.  The organization not only lobbies for more charter schools but helps private charter school management companies develop applications to get public funds.

Lee Bollert

Bollert was an education advisor to Mayor Bill Finch and helped create Excel Bridgeport, Inc.

William McCullough

McCullough serves with Moales on the Board of Directors of Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school.

Kadisha Coates 

Coates is a charter school advocate, member of Families for Excellent Schools and is the newest member of the Bridgeport Board of Education. Coates and her husband are both donors to Moales.

Liz Torres

Torres is a member of the Great Oaks Charter School Board of Directors.

Joshua Thompson

Thompson is the former Finch aide and Vallas assistant who posted on his on-line resume that he was the Deputy Mayor for Education in Bridgeport, even though he was no such thing. Thomson is now an executive New Leaders Fund, a corporate education reform advocacy group in New York City.  Brandon Clark, who ran on the Finch slate for Board of Education with Moales in 2013 but lost, also works with the New Leaders Fund with Thompson and also recently donated to Moales’ campaign.

Other Moales donors include a number of employees, lobbyists and consultants associated with ConnCAN, Achievement First, Inc. and other charter schools organizations in Hartford, New Haven and out-of state.

In order to get the full taxpayer funded grant of Moales has filed the paperwork to get a state taxpayer funded grant.  In order to get the money he must raise a total of $11,250, of which 225 must come from people living in Bridgeport or Stratford.  Depending on the number of signatures collected, Moales could receive a public grant of up to $71,000

Although Moales submitted the paperwork to get a grant last Friday, a review of his public financing report reveals a variety of problems and suspicious donations that could prevent him from qualifying for the public funding.

Note:  A special thanks to Maria Pereira who also researched Moales’ recent campaign finance report and provided her findings to the “Only in Bridgeport” blog.

In the news again – Steve Perry’s point man in Bridgeport – The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

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The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is running for the Connecticut State Senate in a special election to be held on February 24 2015.  Moales is one of three candidates seeking to fill the open seat in Bridgeport.

Not only is Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. the notorious ally of Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, but Moales is the leading member of the “Governing Council” of Steve Perry’s proposed Harbor Prep Capital Charter School, the charter school that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and political appointees on the State Board of Education jammed through despite the fact that there is no funding in the state budget for Perry’s growing aspirations to  open a “boutique” Charter School Management Company.

Kenneth Moales Jr. was also a leading force on the illegal State Oversight Board that was appointed by the Malloy administration when the State of Connecticut illegally took over the Bridgeport School System.

Following the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision to restore the rule of law and the notion of democracy by returning Bridgeport’s Schools to an elected Board, Moales got onto the new elected Board of Education thanks to the help of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.  [Moales had served as Finch’s campaign treasurer in his run for mayor].

As a member of the elected Board, including a stint has its chairman; Moales continued to serve as Education Reform Guru Paul Vallas’ biggest cheerleader.

Moales also used his time on the Board to garner a $1 million, no-competitive bid contact, to expand his family’s state-funded daycare centers – daycare centers that rent space from the very church that Moales owns and operates.

The list of three day care centers included one – the largest – that was housed in a building that never had a certificate of occupancy or even met fire code.

The very same church that owns Moales’ house, and at last check, his Cadillac Escalade and a couple of Mercedes Benz sedans…

The very same church that has been facing foreclosure proceedings for over a year…

And now it turns out that Moales hasn’t even being paying his property taxes to the City of Bridgeport going all the way back to 2007.

The latest chapter in this charade comes via a breaking story on the “Only in Bridgeport” Blog entitled, “Moales’ Day Care Facility Owes $10,000 in Back Taxes, Joins DeJesus For Arrearage Battle,”

As the Only in Bridgeport Blog reports,

The campaign of State Senate candidate Ken Moales says they welcome the support of political activists turned off by the $140,000 that Democratic-endorsed Richard DeJesus owes in personal property taxes on businesses, as well as his child support issues. Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare for which Moales serves as chief executive officer owes $10,000 in personal property taxes going back to 2007, according to city tax records.

[…]

Moales, a member of the school board, has been a lightning rod in city politics in recent years, particularly when he served as head of the Board of Education. He served as Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer for Finch’s first two runs for mayor. But then tax and foreclosure issues about Moales surfaced. He no longer serves as Finch’s campaign treasurer as the mayor seeks a third four-year term this year.

City tax records show past-due personal property taxes for Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare going back to 2007 and rising.

For more go to: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/moales-day-care-facility-owes-10000-in-back-taxes-joins-dejesus-for-arrearage-battle/#more-68595

For lots, lots more on Moales and his inappropriate, often illegal antics, just search his name here on the Wait, What? Blog.

You can trust us; we’re from the charter schools (Guest Post by Wendy Lecker)

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This truth about the charter school industry grows every day.  Today’s contribution can be found in an investigative story in the New York Times entitled, A Star-Powered School Sputters.  The article explores those associated with the charter school created by Dion Sanders, the pro-football, pro-baseball player turned charter school owner.

Here in Connecticut, we’ve become used to daily coverage of the failures associated with the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and the exploits of charter school champions such as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Steven Pryor, Capital Prep principal Steve Perry, corporate education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas  and the others who are pushing the charter school gravy train.

In today’s Guest Post, public school advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker responds to a recent pro-charter school commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Wendy Lecker writes,

In an oped in the Connecticut Post on August 7, a board member of the Side by Side charter school in Norwalk, Anne Magee Dichele, complained that in the wake of the Jumoke scandal, and the revelations that state authorities exert little oversight over Connecticut charter schools, Connecticut charter schools are now forced to defend themselves to the public.  She pleaded that the public not judge all charters by the actions of those who break the law.

As a public school parent in an urban district, I see my district and districts like mine unfairly maligned on a regular basis, by state and national officials, by  the media and, of course by the charter school industry.  Public education has become everyone’s favorite punching bag and the excuse to do nothing about the glaring inequality in American society. So I feel little sympathy for a charter school operator who must defend her school.

However, I will give some unsolicited advice to this board member. If you do not want to be treated like other charter schools, do not engage in the same semantic sleights of hand your fellow charter operators love to use.

In her oped, Ms. Dichele proudly proclaims that her school uses an “open lottery” so all children “have an equal chance at coming to” her school.  Clearly, she is trying to create the impression that her school satisfied its duty to integrate. Perhaps Ms. Dichele is unfamiliar with the history of school segregation in our country and with the decades of evidence since the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.   So I will spell it out for her.  Open lotteries result in segregation.  Pure and simple.  In fact, open choice was used as a way of keeping southern schools segregated in the wake of the Brown decision.  And over fifty years of evidence since then proves that unfettered choice segregates schools.  The only way to achieve diversity in a choice system is to carefully design a controlled choice policy that consciously seeks diversity. In my district, Stamford, we abandoned an open lottery for our magnet schools years ago, as we found it that it increased segregation.  Stamford has a mandatory integration policy. When our schools fall out of balance, we redistrict.   Enrollment in our magnet schools is done through a lottery that consciously controls for demographics.   Our schools are integrated because we make the conscious effort to integrate, rather than blindly declaring that “all can attend.”

Ms. Dichele’s Side by Side charter school is a perfect example of how an open lottery works against diversity.  When you compare the demographics of Side by Side charter school to its host district, Norwalk, Side by Side has ten percent less poverty, half the percentage of English Language Learners and half the percentage of students with disabilities that Norwalk’s schools have.  Moreover, while state data show that Side by Side has zero percent teachers of color, Norwalk’s school district has 15.9%.

Side by Side charter has significantly fewer needy children than its host district—which brings me to Ms. Dichele’s other claim: that her school spends less than public schools.  Charter schools do not have to pay for transportation or special education services.  Public school districts have to pay for those services provided to the charter schools.  So, Norwalk is paying for the few special education students served at Side by Side, as well as their transportation- and Norwalk reports this payment as expenditure, even though Norwalk cannot count those children as Norwalk district students.  Under state law, if a charter school has fewer than 20 students who are English Language Learners, it does not need to provide ELL services for its students.  According to state data, Side by Side has 13 ELL students. If Side by Side spends less, one would have to say- of course. It is not required to provide the same services as its host district.

Moreover, the facts show that in Connecticut, charters routinely outspend or at least spend the same as their host districts. Bridgeport charters outspend Bridgeport public schools, and in New Haven and Hartford, they spend comparable amounts.

The hard numbers also show that the public schools districts in which these charters exist have been shortchanged by the state year after year.    Norwalk, for example is owed at least $21.34 million annually– that’s almost $2,000 per pupil annually- by the state. And this conservative amount does not factor in any of the unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed on districts, like the Common Core and teacher evaluations.  By contrast, the legislature forks over massive yearly increases to charters, no questions asked.  For the past few years, Connecticut’s ten neediest districts received increases of less than $300 per pupil per year on average, with strict strings attached mandating that they spend that money only the way Commissioner Pryor wanted it spent. By contrast, in Governor Malloy’s 2012 legislation,   every single charter school in Connecticut received a three-year across-the-board increase of $2600 per child.  Connecticut charters serve one 1% of the state’s public school children.  And ninety percent of Connecticut charters serve a less needy, and therefore, less costly, population than their host districts.

According to state data, Side by Side also performs well below the state average. Side by Side may very well be a nice school whose students and parents are happy. However, that is not the metric by which our public schools are judged, sadly.  If Side by Side and all the other “misunderstood” charters just want to be treated like the rest of us, serve the same children we do, and abide by the same rules.

The Beginning of the end for the Charter School Industry in Connecticut

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy ushered in the Charter School Industry to Connecticut as part of his corporate education reform initiative in 2012.  As part of his “education reforms,”

  •  Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”
  • Malloy uttered his infamous observation that all teachers had to do was show up for four years and they’d get tenure.
  • In defense of his plans to implement the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, Malloy said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.
  • And Malloy handed Connecticut’s State Department of Education over to corporate education reform aficionados like Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski, education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and the charter school industry.

In the past two and a half years, Connecticut taxpayers have we seen tens of millions of dollars in public funds diverted to feed the monster known as the emerging education reform industry.

Scarce taxpayer resources wasted on the Common Core, the Common Core Test, the unfair teacher evaluation program and for charter schools that fail to meet the most basic standards of accountability.

But over the past few months, the tide has been turning and the  truth about Malloy, Malloy’s administration, the “education reformers” and the charter schools have been coming out.

The collapse of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain was just the beginning – the time has come when the education reformers will finally be held accountable for their actions.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting today in an article entitled, More Federal Subpoenas In Hartford Charter School Probe,

HARTFORD — City and state educators said Monday that they had been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury examining the expenditure of millions of dollars in public money by the troubled charter school management company FUSE.

The subpoenas were issued Friday to the Hartford Public Schools and the state Department of Education, both of which have had extensive dealings with the state-subsidized FUSE, short for the Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

FUSE was created in 2012 as a management company that used public and private money to take over failing, inner-city public schools and operate them as public charter schools. FUSE’s management agreements with public school systems gave it wide discretion over spending on salaries, rents, curriculum, equipment and other items.

A series of embarrassing disclosures in the past month appears to have crippled FUSE, costing the organization all its management business, worth more than $1 million a year. The closely affiliated Jumoke Academy fired FUSE as manager of its three Hartford charter schools. Schools in Bridgeport and New Haven severed ties with FUSE, and educators in Louisiana, concerned about events in Connecticut, pulled FUSE from a charter school set to open in Baton Rouge next month.

The public is learning the truth and the charter school industry and their public official allies will finally be held accountable for their actions.

You can read the full Hartford Courant story on this developing situation at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-0722-20140721,0,3308874.story

News Flash:  Malloy/Pryor hand another top job to an Achievement First Inc. staffer

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The Malloy administration has given the one-hundred thousand-dollar-a-year-plus job of “Bureau Chief for District and School Transformation” to William (Billy) Johnson, a former employee of Achievement First Inc.

Of course, Achievement First, Inc. being the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner.   The company now operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and has been the largest beneficiary of Malloy’s effort to shovel funds to the charter school industry.

The new “Bureau Chief” will report to Morgan Barth, the State Department of Education’s ‘Division Director.”  Before getting his lucrative management job in the Malloy administration, Barth also worked for Achievement First, Inc.

And Barth reports to Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Not only did Pryor play a key role in the creation of Achievement First, Inc., but he served on its Board of Directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s “education reform” point-person.

The timing of this hand-out to another Achievement First Inc. employee is particularly noteworthy since it takes place at the very moment that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are circling the wagons in an attempt to deny any responsibility for the Jumoke Academy/FUSE Charter School Management Company debacle of the past few weeks.

Their claim that they didn’t know anything about the problems associated with Jumoke Academy/FUSE certainly lacks credibility since it was Pryor, Morgan Barth and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson, who worked directly with Jumoke Academy/FUSE to get them their two no-bid contracts – one to run the Milner School in Hartford and one to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport.  In addition, it was the same cast of characters who successfully got Jumoke Academy/FUSE their new charter school in New Haven.

But as we’ve seen throughout Malloy’s tenure in office, the charter school industry is a priority.

And now another senior position is being given to someone affiliated with Achievement First, Inc. and charter schools.

Billy Johnson worked for Achievement First, Inc. from 2004 to June 2009 and returned to Achievement two years ago to become a consultant for Achievement First’s “AF Residency Program for School Leadership in July 2012.

Johnson has also worked for the Domus Academy, another charter school company and for the Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut.

And what is Johnson’s most recent academic achievement? A 2014 graduate of the UConn’s infamous 093-CT Superintendent Executive Leadership Certificate Program, the very program that Pryor and the State Department of Education sidestepped in granting Paul Vallas his “certification” to run Bridgeport’s schools.

Although Johnson’s salary has not been released yet, the position was advertised for $102,546 – $131,539 per year plus benefits.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Will Bridgeport learn from the Michael Sharpe and Jumoke/FUSE disaster?

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As more and more facts come out about Michael Sharpe, the CEO of the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School Management company, parents, public school advocates and the taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut are turning their attention to the decision by Paul Vallas and former Bridgeport Board of Education, Chairman Kenneth Moales, Jr. to hand over Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, its students, staff, parents and millions of dollars in public funds to the disgraced charter school fraud.

In the fall of 2012, thanks to the intervention of the Malloy administration, Michael Sharpe and the Jumoke/FUSE company won a no-bid contract to run the Milner School in Hartford.  The following year, Jumoke/FUSE won a no-bid contract to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport and this year, Sharpe and his company received permission to open a new charter school in New Haven.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education are all claiming that they didn’t know that Dr. Michael Sharpe wasn’t a “Dr.” or that he served approximately five years in prison for embezzlement and tax fraud when he lived in California.

In Bridgeport, the Dunbar School was handed over to Sharpe through a backroom deal that included education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr., the Malloy and Finch ally who was then serving as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education when the lucrative contract was given to Sharpe.

Just last week the Hartford Board of Education announced they were severing their relationship with Sharpe and Jumoke/Fuse due to fact that Jumoke/FUSE was failing to properly educate the children of the Milner School as required under their Memorandum of Understanding.

Then, thanks to the outstanding investigative reporting of the Hartford Courant, we’ve learned that Sharpe is a fraud having faked his resume and served a lengthy prison sentence for embezzlement and tax evasion.

With the Bridgeport Board of Education meeting tonight, the eyes of the state are turning to Bridgeport to see whether they will stick with the backroom political deal or do what is right for the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut.

Although the details remain murky, one thing is clear – the Dunbar School Deal would not have taken place without the assistance of Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales, Jr.

As readers know, Kenneth Moales is already an extremely controversial figure.  The man who served as Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer has also been one of the most pivotal supporters of Governor Malloy in Bridgeport, the city that “gave” Malloy the margin he needed to beat Tom Foley by 6,200 votes in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Unable or unwilling to follow the law, Moales and his family have been running three daycare centers that illegally overcharged taxpayers and continue to put children in classrooms that do not meet the most basic requirements when it comes to having a permanent certificate of occupancy.

Wait, What? readers will recall that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. received a temporary certificate of occupancy on July 23, 2013, shortly after the CT Post reported his church, the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, had been operating illegally as early as 2011.

On July 23, 2013, the Chief Building Official emailed Andrew Nunn, Mayor Finch’s Chief Administrative Officer, stating “All outstanding items have been resolved and the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy has been issued effective today.”  Andrew Nunn responded by writing “Thank you. Please work on outstanding issues and a timetable for a full CO and report back to me.”  Those cc’d on the email include Mayor Finch’s Chief of Staff, Deputy Administrative Officer, Director of Economic Development, City Attorney, Fire Chief, Deputy Chief of Staff, Communications Director and the Chief Fire Marshall.

But a year later, Moales still hasn’t resolved “those outstanding issues” and doesn’t have a permanent certificate of occupancy, although he continues to collect on what is nearly a $1 million-a- year daycare grant from the Malloy administration.

Although Moales’ isn’t meeting his legal requirements, neither the Malloy administration nor the City of Bridgeport have stepped in to close down Moales’ daycare operation….even though it is inconceivable that any other daycare provider in the state would be allowed to stay open without a permanent certificate of occupancy.

What makes the Moales situation particularly relevant is that despite being Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Moales never briefed his fellow board members on the controversy engulfing his daycare operation – an operation that is almost exclusively paid for with state funds that go through the Bridgeport Board of Education.

And while Moales was able to fly under the State Department of Education’s rules on daycare programs, he was helping Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s friend, Paul Vallas, give a multi-million dollar contract to Jumoke/FUSE’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, to run the Dunbar School.  Sharpe got the contract despite the fact that he and his company had no experience running a school outside of Hartford and was already running into problems with the Milner School in Hartford.

The action the Bridgeport Board of Education takes tonight will speak volumes about just how much power the Malloy administration has to divert scarce public resources to favored private companies or whether those days are coming to an end.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Hashtag – #ConnecticutisnotWisconsin 

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To the  unions, public employees, and the voters of Connecticut – Let’s take a moment to set the record straight…

While preventing me from even speaking to the union members responsible for endorsing candidates, the leadership of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and AFT-CT were among those claiming that voters must choose Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy or Connecticut would become another Wisconsin – a reference to the damage Wisconsin Tea-Party governor, Scott Walker, and the Republican, right-wing controlled Wisconsin Legislature have done to public employees and their right to collectively bargain in that state.

In order to drive their point home, the Connecticut union leaders brought in Stephanie Bloomingdale, the secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, to give a speech at the AFL-CIO political endorsing convention.  Bloomingdale reported, “They came for us in Wisconsin and they are coming for you in Connecticut. We were the first target. Now it is your turn to stop it…

Lee Saunders, the national president of AFSCME, was also given the microphone at the event and explained that “Connecticut’s governor’s race nationally and how the labor movement can’t afford Connecticut becoming another Wisconsin.”

 But Connecticut will not be another Wisconsin. (Regardless of what happens in November)

While one can be rightfully suspicious of Republican Tom Foley, Connecticut has and will continue to have a Democratic legislature.  Wisconsin’s governor got away with undermining collective bargaining BECAUSE he has a right-wing Republican legislature to support is anti-union, anti-public employee, anti-teacher, anti-public education initiatives.

Thanks to the way districts were drawn in the last three rounds of re-districting, Connecticut will have a Democratic legislature for decades to come.

But the #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument fails on a second group.

At last week’s AFL-CIO Convention, Governor Malloy took the stage and in an attempt to revise history by saying,

“I stand with labor, I always have. I always will.”

Not one union representative during this heavily scripted event challenged Malloy or even asked him to explain why he is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure and repealing the collective bargaining rights for teachers in turnaround school.

And no one confronted Malloy in order to force him to explain to state and local public employees how he intends to govern and meet our state’s obligations, including public employee salaries, healthcare and pensions when he has promised that he will not propose or accept any tax increase during his second term as governor.

Faced with a $1.3 billion projected state budget deficit next year, Malloy has promised no taxes, no cuts to vital services and no concessions from state employees.

But even putting aside salary issues, the state of Connecticut will be required to allocate more than $120 million next year just to maintain minimum funding for pension obligations and health benefits.

Furthermore, the last state employee concession agreement cut salaries by 3%, so that those dollars could be shifted to the state retirees’ healthcare fund.  As state employees know, the state of Connecticut is supposed to start matching that $125 million a year in July 2017.  But Malloy’s no tax pledge makes is virtually impossible for the state to fulfill that financial obligation. This means that state employees will learn that they took a pay cut to help fund retiree health benefits but the state walked away from its side of the bargain.

The #dontletCTbecomeWisconsin argument is simply a way to scare union members into voting for a governor who has failed to match his actions to his rhetoric.

Perhaps even more telling, the “Don’t let us become Wisconsin” is the campaign strategy that some union leaders are utilizing in other parts of the nation.

In Illinois, for example, the argument is the same.  Don’t let Illinois become Wisconsin.

And so who are voters being told to vote for?  An incumbent Democratic governor who has pushed anti-labor bills and his running mate, Paul Vallas, one of the nation’s leading champions in the effort to destroy public school teachers, their unions and the public education system.

Voters, including union members, deserve the right to vote for a candidate who will look out for their interests, not just the option of choosing one failed politician over the other.

Just take a look at this political cartoon developed by fellow education blogger, Fred Klonsky who is one of the most important pro-union, pro-teacher, pro-public education voices in Illinois.

 

The cartoon savoring the facts of the career of Paul Vallas first appeared on Fred Klonsky’s blog on June 12, 2014. The URL for the blog is http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/ten-minute-drawing-vote-for-quinnvallas-or-we-will-be-like-wisconsin/#comment-63640

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

And from Bridgeport – Even more serious questions about the Moales daycare center

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Question:     Did the Malloy administration inappropriately aid and abet Moales’ in his successful effort to get a third daycare facility license on his property?

Question:   Did Mayor Finch and his top staff help Moales get around zoning and code requirements for his new daycare facility?

Question:  Although Moales was caught inappropriately billing taxpayers for more than $75,000., did Moales still collect more than what he was legally allowed to collect?

And the most important QUESTION of all… Are children in a daycare center and church run school that does not have a permanent certificate of occupancy and did not meet the legal requirements to be licensed?

These questions all arise from files of new evidence that has surfaced.

The documents raise the specter of potentially legal and financial wrongdoing by Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. and his family as it relates to their newly acquired, state financed daycare center.  The new center joins two others that are owned and operated by Moales’ family and rent space from Moales.

The fact is that every month, the taxpayers of Connecticut shell out tens of thousands of dollars in payments to a series of daycare centers own by the Moales family, all of which are housed on church property that is owned and operated by Kenneth Moales.

Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is a key political ally of Mayor Bill Finch and Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy.

Moales served on Malloy’s illegal Bridgeport Public School Oversight Board and then won a seat on the re-constituted board thanks to Mayor Bill Finch.  As a Bridgeport Board of Education member, and eventually as its chairman, Moales who was one of Paul Vallas’ biggest supporter and helped move the public school privatization effort that was designed by Vallas and Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.

The newly acquired documents call out for an independent investigation into whether Moales or others violated civil and criminal laws.

For those unacquainted with the Moales daycare center saga, in August 2013 Moales’ mother and sister received approval for their third daycare facility license.  All three daycare centers rent space from Moales’ church and taken together, the three facilities are costing taxpayers upward of $1 million a year.

As previously reported here at Wait, What?, the newest daycare center is steeped in controversy and the additional documents indicate that the new daycare center, and the church run K-8 day school which is housed at the same location, never acquired the proper zooming approvals and are functioning in a building that was never granted a permanent certificate of occupancy, a requirement that must be met in order for these facilities to be open.

But despite the apparent lack of appropriate zoning and occupancy permits, Governor Malloy’s Department of Public Health, with input from the Department of Education, granted the Moales’ family their third daycare facility license last summer…knowing that it did not have the necessary zoning and occupancy permits.

As further background, the August 15, 2013 state daycare license was granted ten months AFTER the Moales family was supposed to have opened the new facility as part of a no-bid multi-million dollar contract that they received in connection with Governor Malloy’s 2012 early childhood initiative.

In the fall of 2012, Moales’ mother and sister were given 60 of the 72 new early childhood slots that Governor Malloy gave to Bridgeport through his 2012 Early Childhood Initiative.

This lucrative contract was given out despite the fact that Kenneth Moales Jr. served as a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education at this time and the Bridgeport Board of Education serves as the fiduciary agent for this state program.

However that ethical problem is minor compared to the bigger issues related to the inadequate zoning approval and lack of occupancy certification.

The new documents clearly make the case that the Bridgeport Fire Inspectors Office has been raising significant concerns about the building that houses Moales’ newest daycare facility (and the school) for years.

It was November 17, 2009 when the Fire Marshall”s office first realized that the building was in use without a Ccertificate of occupancy.

More concerns were raised in September 2011 when the inspectors discovered that the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit had moved their school to the location in August 2011.

Yet despite identifying fire code issues, Moales’ church school remained open.

A year later, on July 2, 2012, Bridgeport’s Fire Marshall issued an official letter to the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit noting code violations and demanding that corrective action be taken within thirty days.

The Fire Marshall’s report further noted that “Certificate of Occupancy Not Completed” and the letter states that while there were two classrooms in the original architectural drawings, drawings, “I saw seven classrooms therefore 5 are illegal change of use.”

The documents further indicate that while Moales’ family submitted their daycare facility application in February 2013 to the State Department of Public Health, which is obligated to license and monitor daycare centers determined that the application was inadequate and needed, among other things, proof of proper zoning and a permanent certificate of occupancy.

In an odd twist, on February 28, 2013, days after the Moales application for a new daycare license was submitted, Kenya Moales Byrd (Kenneth Moales’ sister) filed an application with the City of Bridgeport for a Certificate of Zoning Compliance to “add two classrooms,” to the church to facilitate the new day care.  While that zoning application was approved, the proper documents were never submitted to the Building Permit’s Office and therefore the classrooms were never inspected and never received a Certificate of Occupancy.

In addition, the building itself still didn’t have the permits needed to run a daycare center or a school and did not have a permanent certificate of occupancy.

At about the same time, Moales’ Kingdom’s Little One’ Daycare Center started invoicing for the additional slots they that they had been granted in the fall of 2012.

But in July of that year, the State Department of Education discovered that the daycare center appeared to be double billing and an audit was conducted which led to the determination that the Moales family had inappropriately billed the state by at least $75,000.  The State Board of Education ordered the Bridgeport Board of Education to repay the funds and take the necessary steps to recoup the ill-gotten money from the Moales daycare facilities.

Although Kenneth Moales Jr. had become Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education by this time, the Board was never notified of the audit or its findings.

The complete lack of any Certificate of Occupancy also came to light in the summer of 2013 after the Connecticut Post featured an article about the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit’s failure to obtain even a temporary Certificate of Occupancy, as required by state law.

As news broke about the lack of any Certificate of Occupancy for the church and its activities, local officials moved with lightning speed to help Moales get a temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

The newly acquired documents trace a series of emails that track back to the highest levels of Bridgeport City Government.

At one point, the City’s Zoning Enforcement Officer emailed the City’s top building official stating, “I see no reason not to approve of a temp. C/O.”

But interestingly, these same city officials never indicate that Moales lacked the most basic zoning approvals for a daycare center or the school.

In yet another incredible series of emails, Mayor Bill Finch’s top staff appears to be trying to intimidate the city’s professional staff into moving quickly to grant Moales’ the approvals he needs. The email trail includes Adam Wood (Finch’s Chief of Staff), Adam Nunn (Chief Administrative Officer) and David Kooris (Bridgeport’s Director of Economic Development).

But what makes the intrigue behind the whole issue even more noteworthy is that although the Connecticut Department of Public Health had made it clear, in writing, that Moales would need proper zoning approval and a permanent Certificate of Occupancy before a daycare facility license could be granted, the license was, nevertheless, given to Moales without those documents on August 13, 2013.

Although it is clear that something was moving the process along, the documentation fails to clarify who in the Malloy administration had intervened on Moales’ behalf or how the agency decided to give a license for a facility that failed to have the proper zoning approvals and failed to acquire a permanent Certificate of Occupancy.

By that point, state official knew that Moales had “inappropriately” billed the state $75,000 and had consistently failed to acquire the proper zoning permits and certificates of occupancy…and yet the additional license was granted and Moales further ramped up the amount he was billing taxpayers…all while the safety and well-being of the children at the daycare center and in the K-8 school housed at 729 Union Avenue in Bridgeport remained in question.

While a full-fledged independent investigation is needed into the whole situation, Sauda Baraka and the new majority on the Bridgeport Board of Education are taking their own action to determine whether Kenneth Moales Jr. is violating Bridgeport ethics rules by serving on the Board of Education while he is connected to entities that are making money from funds controlled by the Board.

For that story see the CT Post’s Board wants legal opinion on Moales

It also remains to be seen whether the State Department of Public Health will take enforcement action to close the new daycare center until it meets all of its legal requirements and if the State Department of Education will pursue a full refund from the Bridgeport Board of Education for all the payments that were inappropriately made to the Kingdom’s Little Ones Academy.

What hangs in the balance is the question of whether the Malloy administration will continue to provide cover to Kenneth Moales Jr. and his daycare operations or whether it will reverse course and ensure that state laws are equitably enforced and taxpayer funds properly monitored.

Meanwhile in Bridgeport…  More state funds to Moales’ Kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc.

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Late last week, two new articles about Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr, were posted here on Wait, What?

Moales is the controversial Bridgeport political figure who serves as Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s cheerleader and was the titular head of the Paul Vallas “fan club.”  Moales was appointed by the Malloy administration to the state oversight board that illegally took over the Bridgeport school system and he was later elected, under the Finch banner, to the re-installed and democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education.  For a particularly critical period, Moales also served as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, but lost that post when the pro-public education, anti-Finch, forces took control of the Board last November.

Kenneth Moales Jr. is the also the head of PRAYER TABERNACLE CHURCH OF LOVE, INC.

The company that provided Moales and his church with an $8 million loan has been working to foreclose on the church and about a dozen related properties since last summer.  The foreclosure proceedings seek to take possession of The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit – Home of the War Cry, The Love Christian Academy, The Prayer Tabernacle Church of Love, Kingdom’s Little Ones Academy and the Bishop Moales Fine Arts Center, the Kingdom’s Little Ones Christian Daycare, The House of Virtue, and a church owned residence where Moales resides.

During this same time period, a second major controversy has been enveloping Kenneth Moales Jr. and his financial affairs.

As noted previously, Moales rents space to his mother and sister who run state-funded daycare centers under the name of Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc.

From 2008-2012, this daycare company collected more than $2.3 million in taxpayer to pay for the services it provides to Bridgeport’s children.

In the fall of 2012, Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc. “won” a lucrative contract for 60 of the 72 new early childcare slots that Bridgeport received under Governor Malloy’s early childhood initiative.

Although the new contract required that providers have the new day care slots available by November 2012, official state documents show that Moales’ family operation has never been able to fill its initial allocation and that they weren’t even licensed for new slots until August 2013 —- ten months after the required date.

Even more stunning was the news that the daycare centers run by the Moales family were inappropriately billing the state and that an audit conducted by the State Department of Education determined that the Moales company needed to return more than $75,000 in state funds.

You can read the articles about this developing story here:  State agency determines Malloy ally Rev. Kenneth Moales overcharged state by at least $75,000 for day care slots and here: And the scandal surrounding Moales, Finch, Vallas, Pryor and Malloy grows.

While the recent focus on financial irregularities associated with Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr., his family, and kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc. are related to reimbursement rates for the day care centers run by Moales’ mother and sister, it now appears that the Connecticut Department of Social Services also provided Kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc. with some grant funds in January 2012 and that the Department of Education gave Kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc. grant funds in March 2012.

Freedom of Information requests are being delivered to determine what these other contracts were for.

In addition, requests have been submitted to determine whether the Malloy administration has given Moales, his family or their companies any other state funds since Malloy took office in January 2011.

You can also read about this issue on the Bridgeport Blog, “Only in Bridgeport.”  The blog can be reached here: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/

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