Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education have figured out a way to circumvent the Connecticut General Assembly and push up Special Master Steven Adamowski’s pension.
As a result of a 2006 change in the Connecticut State Statutes, Steven Adamowski was able to serve for five years as the uncertified superintendent of schools in Hartford, Connecticut. However, as a result of a separate statute that limits participation in the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System to those who hold valid teaching or administrative certificates, Adamowski couldn’t add those years to the number of years he had collected when he served as a Connecticut teacher and administrator much earlier in this career.
So last year, hidden deep inside of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill was a change to the law that would have retroactively added those five years to Adamowski’s pension. The move would have added tens of thousands to Adamowski’s pension since his salary was now in excess of two hundred thousand dollars. But after the story appeared in Wait, What? the Courant and other media outlets, the legislators deleted the “Adamowski provision” from the new law and Adamowski lost his gift of five extra years added to his public pension.
That said, the effort to boost Adamowski’s pension resurfaced when Adamowski was given a $225,000, plus benefits, no-bid contract through the State Education Resource Center (SERC). Adamowski’s contract included language that read , “Also, Dr. Adamowski will be eligible to continue membership in the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement System.”
However, that attempt to boost his pension also fizzled when it was realized that while state law does allow the staff of the State Education Resource Center to be part of the State Teachers Retirement System only but only if they are “employed in a professional capacity while possessing a certificate or permit issued by the State Board of Education.”
Since Adamowski is not certified and doesn’t have a valid teacher or administrator certificate, he could not add the time he worked at SERC as Windham and New London’s “Special Master.”
But then last week, out of the blue, Commissioner Pryor announced that with the State Board of Education’s approval, Steven Adamowski would no longer be working through SERC but would, instead, become a state employee.
Pryor never posted the new state position. He failed to go through any recruitment or review process. He simply announced that he was giving Steven Adamowski a senior management position in the state agency. at a cost of $163,000.
Pryor did make a point of mentioning that Adamowski would be taking a $63,000 pay cut.
As the Courant reported at the time, Kelly Donnelly, Commissioner Pryor’s spokeswoman explained that, “the cut in pay brought Adamowski’s salary in line with that of other top-level salaries in the state agency.”
And Adamowski sent an email to the Courant saying that the cut was “something I can live with.”
Adamowski also reported that he had agreed to carry on his work, “due to my commitment to the schoolchildren of Windham and New London who need better schools and to the unfinished nature of the turnaround work in both Districts.”
At the same time, Adamowski told the New London Day that he accepted the move from being a SERC employee to being a state employee because, “The SERC salary was not realistic.”
But as Wait, What? readers from the coverage posted here, there were just too many unresolved questions to make the Pryor/Adamowski story believable.
The primary and nagging question was why would Adamowski move from a job that paid $225,000 plus state-employee like benefits to a job that paid $163,000 plus state employee benefits unless there was some other piece to the puzzle.
Of course, the reasonable assumption was that it had to be a last-ditch attempt to boost Adamowski’s pension…But the question was how; since Teachers Retirement credits can’t be moved to the State Employee Retirement System and State Employee Retirement credits can’t be moved to the Teacher’s system.
Well the mystery has finally been resolved and the answer lies in exactly a dozen words deep inside the existing state statutes!
Subsection 26 of Section 10-183b of the Connecticut State Statutes defines the term “Teacher” for the purposes of the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System…And subsection (D) of subsection 26 of Section 10-183b provides that “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education” may elect to be in the Teachers Retirement System instead of the State Employees Retirement System.
The phrase, “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education”is not limited by whether or not the individual is certified to serve as a teacher or administrator.
Since the State Retirement System is generally more generous than the Teacher Retirement System, the provision was obviously created so that if a Connecticut school teacher or administrator worked for a time at the State Department of Education they wouldn’t be forced to be in two different systems…the Teacher Retirement System for their teaching years and the State Employee Retirement System for their time at the Department of Education.
Instead they could be a teacher, go to work for the state Department of Education and then return to working in a school district.
But by leaving off the reference to being an employee of the State Department of Education AND a certified teacher or administrator, the laws opened up a massive loophole that Steven Adamowski is now strutting through thanks to Commissioner Pryor and Governor Malloy.
As a state employee, Adamowski will be able to sidestep the State Employee Retirement System rules – for example – having to work ten years before vesting his pension. Instead he will be able to immediately add years to his Teachers Retirement System penson – EVEN THOUGH HE IS NOT CERTIFIED TO TEACH OR BE AN ADMINISTRATOR IN CONNECTICUT.
Not only will he get to add his time at the State Department of Education to his Teacher Retirement Pension, but for every two years he works at the state he will be able to buy yet another year of retirement credits for the time he worked as a school administrator in another state.
As of now, Adamowski has ten years into the State Teacher Retirement System, time that he collected for his work many years ago when was employed by various Connecticut school districts. Since he reached his ten-year threshold, he also qualifies under the program to purchase four years of his out-of-state service. So at this point in time he only has 14 years toward a Connecticut Teachers Retirement Pension…enough for a pension, but a relatively small one..
However, with his new status as a highly paid state employee, he not only will get the benefit of additional years and the higher salary but will be able to purchase even more out-of-state time. Two years as a state employee and he can purchase one more year of out-of-state service. Four years at the Department of Education could actually mean he collects a total of more six more years of pension credits.
Factor in the $163,000 a year (and more) that he will be making at the Department of Education and this shift from being an employee of SERC to being a the State of Connecticut will increase his annual pension by thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars.
As Governor Malloy sits on top of one of the largest unfunded state and teacher pension systems in the country, an unfunded liability that will cost Connecticut taxpayers more than $20 billion to resolve over the next two decades, leave it to back room politics of the Malloy administration to wheel and deal a way for Steven Adamowski to boost his pension at taxpayer expense.
But as the corporate education reformers like to say….”it is all for the children.”
You can read more background on the Pryor/Adamowski move here: