The Problem:  Some believe what isn’t true and others refuse to believe what is…

And then there are those people who do both.

As we contemplate how it is possible that elected officials like Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy remain steadfastly committed to his anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-Common Core testing and pro-charter school corporate education reform initiatives we might do well to remember the words of the great Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, who observed that fools are those who “believe what isn’t true [and/or] refuse to believe what is true.”

The damage that Malloy and his cadre of “reformers” have done to public education in Connecticut, and continue to do, has been significantly exacerbated by the utter failure of the Democrat controlled Connecticut General Assembly to stand up to Malloy’s bullying.

Incredibly, the majority of State Senators and State Representatives have abdicated their responsibility when it comes to promoting public education.

Rather that step forward and fulfill their constitutional and moral duty as participants in our representative democracy, they have relegated themselves, doing little more than rubber stamping the very policies that are hurting Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers of their districts.

With little to no support from the Legislative Branch of Government, the role of the Judicial Branch becomes all the more important.

Public education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker had another MUST READ column in this past weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

In her column, Wendy Lecker alerts us to the fact that we’ve apparently and unfortunately reached the point where the courts must step in and guide our elected officials toward policies that help, not hurt, public education in Connecticut.

Wendy Lecker’s piece, entitled, “Do courts need to guide Malloy about education?” was first published in the Stamford Advocate and can be found at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Do-courts-need-to-guide-Malloy-6514492.php

Wendy Lecker Writes;

Charter schools want it both ways. To get taxpayer dollars, they want to call themselves public schools. However, they do not want to educate the same children as public schools, or be subject to the same rules. Courts are beginning to challenge this duplicity. In Texas and Arizona, courts have ruled that charters are not entitled to the same funding as public schools. Now, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that charter schools not public schools at all and it is unconstitutional to divert any money intended for public schools to them.

Central to the Washington court’s decision was the connection between public schools and local democracy. The court noted that local control is the “most important feature” of a public school because it vests in local voters the power, through their elected agents, to run the schools that educate their children.

Charters in Washington are authorized by state agencies and governed by unelected boards. The court concluded that charter schools are not true public schools because they are “devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operation.”

This ruling follows another major decision by Washington’s Supreme Court, holding the legislature in contempt for failing to adequately fund its public schools, and fining it $100,000 a day.

The refusal to fund public schools and simultaneous willingness to divert money to privately run charter schools has parallels to Connecticut.

In January, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will have to defend the state’s failure to fund our public schools as the CCJEF school funding trial he has failed to thwart finally begins.

While spending millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prevent children in underfunded school districts from having their day in court, the Malloy administration has aggressively expanded privately run charter schools and funded them at levels higher than schools in our poorest districts receive. Charter schools receive $11,000 per pupil annually from the state, while children in Bridgeport public schools, for example, receive less than $9,000 per pupil annually in ECS funding. New Britain Schools receive less than $8,000 per pupil. Connecticut charter schools also tend to serve less needy, therefore less expensive-to-educate, students than their district counterparts.

Moreover, the state, in violation of its own laws, concentrates charters in a few districts, forcing those financially strapped districts to pay additional millions to the charter schools for special education and transportation.

The Malloy administration applies a double standard to charters on one hand and underfunded public schools on the other. As I have documented, the State Board of Education routinely reauthorizes charter schools despite their failures, while poor districts are subject to state takeover despite the state acknowledging that the districts’ troubles are financial . The SBE even blindly handed over tens of millions of dollars to a convicted embezzler/charter operator, Michael Sharpe.

Furthermore, despite strong Connecticut legal precedent barring school segregation, the state does nothing to stop rampant charter segregation. Ironically, the state recently claimed stellar progress on desegregation and asked to be released from court oversight in the Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation case.

Like Washington, Connecticut has a long tradition of local control over its public schools. In 2012, our Supreme Court voided the illegal state takeover of the Bridgeport board of education. The decision highlighted the importance of local control over education. The court stressed that Connecticut law has long recognized need to protect the democratic will of the people who elect their local boards of education. The court noted that local boards are most responsive to the needs of the local district and the will of the local population. The court further emphasized that local control “fosters a beneficial and symbiotic relationship between the parents, students and local school administrators, a relationship that should not be lightly disregarded.”

Yet in its zeal to expand and dole out taxpayer dollars to privately-run charters, the state has run roughshod over local control. Connecticut’s State Board of Education authorizes charter schools, which often appoint outsiders to their unelected boards. SBE steamrolls the will of the people. Last year, the SBE authorized new charter schools in Bridgeport and Stamford, disregarding the vociferous opposition of the elected school board in each city.

While the Malloy administration fights fair funding and desegregation of public schools, it has nearly doubled financial support for privately run, segregated charters.

Perhaps it is time for our courts to step in, like they did in Washington, and remind the governor of the true nature of public schools: Schools that serve every child and are accountable to the voters in every district.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

Setting the record straight on Adamowski and Hartford

Robert Cotto Jr. is a member of the Hartford Board of Education.  He is also a leading academic expert on education policy in Connecticut.  His articles have appeared in numerous publications and his writing and work can be regularly found in the Hartford Courant, CT Mirror and CT NewsJunkie.

Having seen witnessed Mr. Adamowski’s time in Hartford first-hand and written extensively about the challenges facing Hartford’s public school system, Robert Cotto Jr. sent the following letter to the Norwalk Board of Education today.

Letter to Norwalk Board of Education (By Robert Cotto, Jr. June 16, 2015)

This letter is sent in my capacity as an individual and do not represent the views of any organization I am involved in.  The views are my own.

Dear members of the Norwalk Board of Education,

Several newspapers recently reported that the Norwalk Board of Education would be hiring a former Superintendent of the Hartford Public Schools (HPS). As a Hartford Board of Education member since 2010 and an educational researcher, I write to raise concerns about claims made about the Hartford Public Schools between 2006 and 2011.

A press release from the Norwalk Board of Education suggests that HPS improved test results and graduation rates because of a change in policies and a new superintendent in 2006. It is true that HPS embarked on a policy of expanded school choice and hyper-accountability. This included closing schools and reopening them as themed academies.

However, there is little evidence that these policies alone resulted in improved achievement and graduation rates. As I wrote in The Hartford Courant in 2011, there was a mixed result from these policies – at best. Most importantly, the apparent “increases” only began when testing and graduation policies changed to artificially inflate this data.

Hartford’s “historic” test result increases only began when low-income, Black, and Latino students with disabilities were removed from regular tests and allowed to participate in a separate modified assessment in 2009. By 2011, 10% or more of all Hartford students, all with disabilities, were selected for a separate test. While this was happening, the HPS superintendent and administrators took credit. They also took bonus money for the subsequent increases, caused in large part by removing these kids.

I have written extensively on this issue. You can read my Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant, my report for CT Voices for Children, and my TEDx Talk at Central CT State University on the issue. This is not speculation, but fact.

Hartford’s graduation rate also has a number of question marks. Between 2006 and 2011, several policies changed that inflated graduation rates. First, the formula changed to calculate graduation rates. This new formula has excluded hundreds of Black and Latino students. They have been transferred out of their cohorts, and effectively removed from all calculations.

Second, online credit recovery and the policy of mandatory minimum grade of 55% inflated graduation rates. Online credit recovery, required by State law in 2010, meant that students that did not pass a course the first time were allowed to take the course online instead.

Hartford’s “F-55″ rule mandated that a student failing a quarter or semester would get a 55% percent. With this rule, a student could earn a 75% in one quarter and pass the rest of the course, even without doing any work or even showing up to class. The Hartford Board of Education never approved these changes for online credit recovery and the “F-55” policy.

The information is not new, but ignored. Elected board members in Hartford raised concerns about both the test scores and graduation rates with little response from the Superintendent or his successor. Interestingly, the video of the meeting in early 2011 where Board members confronted the superintendent about the test inflation was reported as “damaged”. This was the only missing or damaged meeting video in my six years of service.

Rather than outright success, much of what happened in Hartford can be explained by these data illusions. Also, the tremendous State investment in school choice, particularly magnet schools, under the Sheff v. O’Neill agreement has played a major role.

The Hartford Public Schools are still trying to recover from the considerable damage caused by the school “turnarounds” started in 2006 and the unregulated school choice system. Our district is in as much or more financial distress with the expansion of school choice programs beyond our ability to support them. Many of the “turnaround” schools have experienced their second closure and reopening. In many of the Sheff magnet schools and most of our non-magnet schools, our staff still struggles to meet the needs of all children. Even former proponents of these policies have come to question their viability and performance.

I believe deeply in the ability of our city’s children and families, mostly Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino folk, to succeed academically and thrive in life. That is what we have been doing for hundreds of years with substantially unequal and separate opportunities in education and the economy. Yet, the limited resources that sustained our Black and Latino communities are now diminished, dismantled, privatized, or provided to only selected students. These resources included broad academic curriculum offerings, sports, special education services, bilingual education, and libraries.

While you are free to make the decision that is best for Norwalk, I would recommend not to make that decision based on discredited claims about Hartford. What happened from 2006-11 in Hartford may have helped some kids, but came along with further marginalization of the most vulnerable children and families in our city. In Hartford, we are still working for equitable opportunity.

Sincerely
Robert Cotto, Jr.

Member, Hartford Board of Education

– See more at: http://commons.trincoll.edu/cssp/2015/06/16/letter-to-norwalk-board-of-education/#sthash.6WmgJGGa.dpuf

Connecticut Charter Schools are promoting greater racial segregation using taxpayer funds

As Robert Cotto Jr. writes about the way in which Connecticut charter school companies are pocketing public funds in his latest CTNewjunkie commentary piece entitled, Stunning Charter School take down by Robert Cotto Jr. let’s not forgot that the problems with charter schools goes far beyond greed, waste and fraud.

The REAL TRUTH about Connecticut Charter schools and racial segregation;

Forget the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education that ruled that segregation in schools violated the United States Constitution.

Forget the 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Sheff v. O’Neill that ruled that segregation in Connecticut schools violated Connecticut’s Constitution.

Forget that as a result of the Sheff v. O’Neill case, Connecticut taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reduce racial isolation in public schools.

The REAL TRUTH is that more than $100 million a year in scarce Connecticut funds are being handed over to charter school companies and that according to the most recent reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education (2012-2013), every single major charter school in Connecticut is more racially segregated than the school district they are supposed to serve.

The REAL TRUTH is that while Connecticut spends massive amount of money to fulfill its federal and state constitutional mandate of REDUCING segregation, Connecticut charter schools are using public money to actually INCREASE racial segregation in Connecticut!

Just look at the data about the charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Using public funds, Connecticut charter schools are creating greater racial isolation – something that is nothing short of illegal and unconstitutional.

HARTFORD % of public school students who are non-white
Hartford School District 89%
Jumoke Academy Charter School 100%
Achievement First Inc. Hartford Charter School 100%

 

Bridgeport % of public school students who are non-white
Bridgeport School District 91%
Achievement First Inc. Bridgeport Charter School 99%
Bridge Academy Charter School 99%
New Beginnings Academy Charter School 99%

 

New Haven % of public school students who are non-white
New Haven School District 85%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Charter School 98%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City Charter School 99%
Highville Charter School 99%

 

 

 

Stamford % of public school students who are non-white
Stamford School District 66%
Stamford Academy Charter School 96%
Trail Blazers Charter School 96%

 

And now Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut’s charter school industry want to divert even more public money away from Connecticut’s public schools so that they can open up two more charter schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford.

Foxes guarding the chicken coop or Hartford politics as usual.

With relatively little fan-fare last fall, Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland appointed a 13 member search committee to choose a new superintendent of schools for the Hartford School System.

Poland, who is not only appointed to the Board of Education by Mayor Segarra, is also the Director of the Hartford City Library, an organization which receives the vast majority of its funding from the Mayor and Hartford City Council.

In his announcement Poland appointed four members of the Hartford Board of Education to the search committee, including himself, but committed to give up his spot to a new member following their swearing-in ceremony in December.

In addition to the four members of the Board of Education, Marlene Ibsen, a Travelers executive was appointed to the Search Committee as a representative of the MetroHartford Alliance business group. Oz Griebel is president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance and has been one of the leading advocates for the corporate education reform agenda in Hartford.

What makes the appointed especially interesting is that Travelers is the chief corporate sponsor of High School, Inc., “a four-year college prep school for Hartford Public School students in grades 9-12 who are interested in pursuing careers in the insurance and financial services industries.”

Last month, the Hartford Board of Education was presented with a secret “Sheff lawsuit plan” that called for opening up two new magnet schools in Hartford and handing Capital Prep and the S.A.N.D. elementary school over to a private company set up by Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry.

Citing the lack of any public hearing or public input into the controversial plan, the Hartford Board of Education rejected the secret deal.

However, three weeks ago the Hartford Board of Education reversed course and with no public hearing or public input, authorized “the state and district to convert High School Inc….to a Sheff magnet school beginning with ninth grade in 2014-15 and gradually expanding to 12th grade by 2017-18.”

The deal will divert hundreds of thousands to the Travelers’ affiliated school despite the fact that “the school has posted low scores on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test. This year, only 5 percent of 10th-graders met the state’s goal in mathematics this year, while less than half of the school’s test-takers were proficient in math, science and reading. Travelers supported the conversion to a magnet program, according to [Hartford school] board member Cherita McIntye, who was involved in negotiations.”

However, despite the appearance of a potential financial conflict of interest, Travelers will continue to serve on the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee.

Another member of the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee is Capital Community College President Wilfredo Nieves. While Nieves is widely respected for his leadership at Capital Community College, the college desperately needs to find additional revenue and additional tenants to fill unused space at the College.

Over the past few years, Governor Malloy has made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities. More than anything else, Connecticut’s colleges now need to find additional revenue, whether through tuition increases or revenue from new tenants.

The secret Sheff deal has also included authorizing Capital Community College to open a magnet school despite the fact that Capital Prep Magnet School used to be affiliated with the college before Capital Prep broke off on its own.

As with the Hartford High Inc. magnet school deal, three weeks ago, the Hartford School Board reversed itself on the Capital Community College proposal and voted 6-1 to allow “state and school officials to move forward with creating Capital Community College Senior Academy, a magnet school to be established for 11th and 12th graders next year in partnership with the community college in Hartford.”

Again, despite the appearance of a potential financial conflict of interest, the President of Capital Community College remains on the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee.

Another member of the Hartford superintendent search committee is Mayra Esquilin, the executive director of HART (Hartford Areas Rally Together).

Esquilin is not only a member of Board of Directors of Achieve Hartford Inc. the leading corporate funded education reform organization in Hartford, but even after being added to the Superintendent Search Committee, Esquilin and Hartford Areas Rally Together submitted a proposal to the City of Hartford in response to a Request for Proposals for a community based organization to rally parents at the Clark School to support handing their school over to Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

Although the $19,400 contract went to another organization called the Multi-Cultural Community Alliance, Esquilin has been extremely outspoken in favor of restructuring S.A.N.D. elementary, the school that was supposed to go to Perry’s private company as part of the secret Sheff Deal.

According to a recent Hartford Courant article, Esquilin said “that she and others canvassed the neighborhood over the past few days and found many parents who were uninformed — and in some cases, misinformed — about the SAND proposal.”

It isn’t exactly clear who is paying Esquilin and HART to work on the S.A.N.D. school effort (watch for an upcoming Wait, What? post on the topic), but despite appearance of a financial conflict of interest, Mayra Esquilin remains on the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee.

And the list goes on…

Considering the size and diversity of Hartford, it is either a sad commentary or an incredible message that the powers that be appointed a number of people with direct or potential conflicts of interest to the search committee for the most important non-elected official in Hartford.

Meanwhile, according to a Hartford Courant story yesterday entitled, Hartford Picks Iowa Firm For Superintendent Search, “The city’s superintendent search committee has chosen the Iowa firm Ray and Associates Inc. to find the next schools leader for Hartford…The contract with Ray and Associates to conduct a national search should total no more than $24,000, according to school board Chairman Matthew Poland.”

Hartford School Board vote reveals more about secret deal within Malloy administration

As reported by the Hartford Courant, “The city board of education reversed itself Monday night and approved two proposed magnet schools for the 2014-15 year, nearly a week after voting to reject the plans that were negotiated as part of a settlement in the Sheff v. O’Neill case.”

The Hartford Board of Education also approved a proposal to proceed with selecting a Hartford neighborhood school to become a “lighthouse” school which would, in turn, attract additional state funds for the school.

As the Courant noted, “School board members voted Monday to pursue a “lighthouse” school model — essentially, a neighborhood school that would be entitled to special state funding for improvements… A lighthouse school in Hartford would receive at least $750,000 annually for improvements over a minimum of three years, school officials said Monday. Poland said the pledged funding from the state was crucial for the board’s reconsideration of the magnet school proposals.”

As originally proposed to the Hartford Board of Education last week, the “lighthouse” school was targeted to be the SAND Elementary School and was part of a package that would have allowed Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Steve Perry to set up his own company and the Board would then have transferred control of both Capital Prep and SAND to that private entity.

The funds mentioned in today’s Courant article would have transferred to Perry’s company along with nearly $15 million-a-year in state funding for the 1,000 students that would have been under his control.

The resolutions approved by the Hartford Board of Education removed any direct reference to Perry, but as late as yesterday morning, Perry was still lobbying hard for the proposal.

Yesterday morning Perry’s operation was handing out a flyer at Capital Prep entitled “SAND Kids Can’t Wait” that instructed parents to attend the meeting and demand the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School.”

The powers that be must have gotten to Perry in the afternoon because no demonstration or “demand” by the Perry supporters took place.

Instead of granting Perry direct control of the schools and the corresponding funds, the Hartford Board adopted a process in which Superintendent Christina Kishimoto will form a four-member lighthouse school selection committee.

Critics of Steve Perry will note, however, that there is nothing in the Board’s language that suggests Perry can’t be selected by Kishimoto and her committee as the “turnaround entity” and the announcement yesterday that the eventual “lighthouse” plan must be approved by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, makes it that much clearer that the Malloy administration has played a major role throughout this policy fiasco.

Since the story first broke last week, participants in the Sheff negotiations have revealed that the Governor’s Office, OPM Secretary Ben Barns and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor played the lead role in the talks, rather than the Attorney General’s Office, which has traditionally played a more direct role in the lawsuit and its related negotiations.

In addition, a number of sources have explained that the Perry boondoggle was proposed and pushed by the Malloy administration as a requirement for Hartford getting any additional state funds at all.

The notion that Pryor will now be a key player in the approval process reiterates the odd role the Malloy Administration has played in the effort to turn Capital Prep and SAND over to Perry’s private company.

According to the Courant report, “the [lighthouse] panel will be asked to convene at least one community forum and identify three or more city schools as candidates for a turnaround plan… By April 1, 2014, the selection committee is expected to recommend a school and its improvement plan, which must ultimately be approved by state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.”

The entire “lighthouse” concept seems designed to get around the Connecticut General Assembly’s language which prohibits the Commissioner of Education from taking over more than two schools in a district via his “Commissioner’s Network” program.  Concerned about giving Pryor and the Malloy administration too much control over local communities, legislators added the “two-school limit” as a way to preserve local control of schools.  The “lighthouse” school proposal appears to provide the Malloy administration with yet another way to undermine that language and the authority of local communities.

As to the two “new” magnet schools, the Hartford Board of Education voted 6-1 to move forward with creating the Capital Community College Senior Academy which will be a magnet school for 11th and 12th graders.

The board also approved converting “High School Inc., one of Hartford’s specialized high school programs, to a Sheff magnet school beginning with ninth grade in 2014-15 and gradually expanding to 12th grade by 2017-18.”

You can read the Hartford Courant story at: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-sheff-magnet-1126-20131125,0,3465187.story

NEWS FLASH: Is Perry mocking Hartford Mayor and School Board Chair in Capital Prep Flyer or revealing secret strategy?

Last week the Hartford Board of Education rejected the secret one-year Sheff v. O’Neill settlement agreement amid concerns that it was an inappropriate, and potentially even illegal, attempt to allow Steve Perry to set up his own company and then hand control of both Capital Prep and SAND elementary school over to that private entity.

The Perry issue also took down two other proposed magnet schools for Hartford; one at Capital Community College and one at High School, Inc. an existing Hartford school program that is connected to Travelers Insurance Company.

In response to the defeat, Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland called a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education for tonight to re-vote the two proposed magnet schools and move forward with the idea of a more public process to help the SAND Elementary School or another neighborhood school become what is being called a “Lighthouse School” (whatever that is).

Chairman Poland and Mayor Segarra appeared to be salvaging what they could from the secret Sheff v. O’Neill deal, leaving aside Perry’s empire-building proposal.

The understanding was that proceeding with the “Lighthouse School” option WAS NOT an underhanded attempt to sneak Perry back into the picture.

But not to be outdone, Perry forces were handing out handing out a flyer and rounding up Capital Prep parents this morning instructing them to go to tonight’s Board of Education meeting to demand the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School.”

The headline of Perry’s flyer reads:  “SAND Kids Can’t Wait”

flyer (3)

Perry’s fancy flyer raises serious doubts as to whether Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland and Mayor Pedro Segarra were telling the truth about the purpose of tonight’s meeting or, alternatively, are they being had by Steve Perry, perhaps with the help of embattled Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto and others.

It is hard to imagine which would be worse… that the Chairman of the Hartford Board of Education and the Mayor of Hartford would be lying to their constituents and the people of Connecticut or that Perry would be undermining their effort without their knowledge.

What is clear is that Steve Perry believes the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School” is his for the taking.

The $3 million is money that Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, OPM Secretary Barnes and Attorney General George Jepsen put on the table to try to convince the Sheff Plaintiffs to agree to this one-year deal so that they can push-off any further discussion of the segregation lawsuit until next year, after the 2014 gubernatorial election.

The “Lighthouse School” concept was a shell of an idea that has never been spelled out but was adopted by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1997.  (See language below).

Regardless of what was intended back in 1997, Steve Perry apparently believes that he has been guaranteed the leading role in an incredible deal that would allow him to take two existing public schools (Capital Prep and another Hartford School), more than 1,000 students, all of their state funding and an additional $3 million in a special allocation and move it off-line to a private company in which he is the sole officer.

The funding stream would provide Perry and his company with approximately $15 million a year in taxpayer funds.

For Perry to be so outspoken about the fact that Capital Prep parents should demand the “$3 million and Capital Prep Light House School” means others are definitely involved in this scam…

But the question is – is it Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, Superintendent Kishimoto, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Board Chair Matt Poland or all of the above?

This will go down as a case study in how Connecticut public policy is made during the Malloy years and it doesn’t get any uglier than this…

 

Here is the definition of Lighthouse Schools from an old State Department of Education document:

A ‘lighthouse school’ is an existing public school or a public school planned before July 1, 1997, in a priority school district that (1) has a specialized curriculum and (2) is designed to promote intradistrict and interdistrict public school choice. During the 2000-01 academic year five lighthouse schools were operating in Connecticut. The State Department of Education provided up to $100,000 in grants to schools in each of the state’s three largest urban districts, Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven, to support the development of lighthouse schools into regional interdistrict magnet schools. Over a three-year period, each school must develop a unique educational theme, devise a governance agreement, revise its curriculum, establish a contract with surrounding school districts that will become feeders for the magnet school, recruit a diverse student body, and provide professional development for its teachers. After up to three years of funding as a lighthouse school, the school must open as an interdistrict magnet school whose purpose is to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation. As a result of the lighthouse program, one elementary school and one middle school opened as interdistrict magnet schools in September 2001

And here is the Agenda for tonight’s Hartford Board of Education Meeting:

Approval to Implement Anticipated Sheff Agreement – Lighthouse (Dr. Kishimoto, Honorable Pedro Segarra, Mr. Poland and Dr. McIntye)

That the Hartford Board of Education further authorizes and directs the Superintendent to identify at least three (3) neighborhood and/or community schools as potential Lighthouse Schools, as well as the model(s) which may be implemented. The criteria to be used by the Superintendent in making these determinations shall include those used in considering re-designs, as well as any other relevant considerations. Thereafter, the Superintendent shall conduct one or more community forums to discuss the schools and models so identified.

Based on the results of said community forum(s), the Superintendent shall determine whether one or more of the schools and/or models so identified should be removed from consideration and whether a school and/or model not already so identified should be considered. After making these determinations, the Superintendent shall identify one (1) neighborhood school as a potential Lighthouse School, based on whether the school has the potential to meet the Lighthouse school goals. Specifically, does the school have conditions necessary for school quality improvement and increasing natural diversity? The Superintendent shall meet with and consider the input of the School Governance interested parents, other stakeholders, and the faculty and administration of said school. Based on the foregoing, the Superintendent shall recommend to the Board of Education one school for conversion to a Lighthouse School as well as the proposed model.

Approval to Implement Anticipated Sheff Agreement (Dr. Kishimoto, Honorable Pedro Segarra, Mr. Poland and Dr. McIntye)

That the Hartford Board of Education approves the creation of a new Partnership Magnet School with Capital Community College, the Capital Community College Senior Academy;

Furthermore, the Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with Capital Community College regarding the creation of such new school; and

Furthermore, the Board of Education authorizes the conversion of High School, Inc. to a Sheff magnet school starting with the 9th grade in 2014-2015 with expansion to grade 12 by 2017-2018.

Wait, What? – A weekend of political news and commentary

Connecticut and American Politics:

Will Rogers, the “unequal distribution of the money” and the elections of 2014 and 2016

Meanwhile…..John Rowland? No Dannel Malloy

Malloy continues to cash in on Education Reform initiative (corrected version)

 

Bridgeport: Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas:

UPDATED: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke

Oh and in case you missed it: Vallas lawyer’s gratuitous attack on those who sued Vallas

 

Hartford:  Steve Perry, Capital Prep and the move to re-vote the secret “Sheff deal”

Hartford Board of Education schedule re-vote for Monday (Capital Prep deal not part of vote yet)

A Model to Replicate? (A must read by Sarah Darer Littman)

Capital Prep Steve Perry’s shocking record of failure on student bullying

WNPR’s Dankosky covers Htfd BOE Chairman Poland’s call for investigation of Principal Steve Perry

 

 

Hartford Board of Education schedule re-vote for Monday (Capital Prep deal not part of vote yet)

Matt Poland, the Chairman of the Hartford Board of Education, has scheduled a “Special Meeting” of the board on Monday, November 25, 2013 at 5:00 p.m. in the plaza level conference room at 260 Constitution Plaza in Hartford.

According to the agenda that was sent out at 4:59 pm Friday (for a Monday meeting, state law requires that agendas be publicly available by 5pm at the latest), it appears that Superintendent Kishimoto, Chairman Poland and Mayor Segarra are seeking to get the Hartford Board to approve all of the elements of the secret one-year settlement in the Sheff v. O’Neil case except for the language associated with Capital Prep Steve Perry’s ability to set up his own company and move management of Capital Prep and SAND elementary to his private control.

The language of the new resolution that the Hartford Board intends to vote on also appears to try and appease parents at SAND elementary by suggesting that rather than target SAND from the outset, Kishimoto must go through a review process of up to three schools, and include the local school governance councils, before picking a school for some sort of takeover/makeover.

The proponents of the re-vote will argue that Hartford MUST approve this secret Sheff plan in order to receive money that Governor Malloy and the State Department of Education has “put on the table” to fund additional magnet schools in Hartford.

On the other hand, there is no particular reason that these discussions have to be secret and a greater degree of transparency would assure parents, teachers and taxpayers that an honest plan was being considered.  Transparency would also have allowed the public to have a better understanding about how Steve Perry’s absurd and counterproduce initiative was inserted into the Sheff settlement.

Hartford is not a party to the Sheff v. O’Neill lawsuit and it is beyond insulting that Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor are dictating – in secret – what the Hartford Board of Education MUST DO in order to fulfill a settlement that is not made public until after the decisions are made and yet still needs legislative approval in order to be implemented.

Hartford and its children, parents and teachers deserve better from the state’s highest elected and appointed officials.

Meanwhile, you can read a Hartford Courant editorial on the original vote here: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-hartford-school-fiasco-20131122,0,7673428.story and a commentary piece by East Hartford State Representative Jason Rojas about finding a more common sense approach for moving forward on the Sheff issues here:    http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-rojas-sheff-school-plan-needs-new-look-1124-20131122,0,49998.story.

Connecticut Democratic Leaders stand by as the soul of Sheff v. O’Neill hangs in the balance

In an article entitled Hartford Schools To Consider New Management For SAND School, the Hartford Courant has just confirmed that the Hartford “board of education will consider three new school plans proposed as part of Sheff v. O’Neill negotiations, including a state request to have SAND Elementary School managed by a nonprofit educational organization.”

The Courant adds, “That group, Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., is led by Capital Prep Magnet School Principal Steve Perry. Under the proposal, which is set for a board vote Tuesday night, Perry’s organization would manage both SAND and Capital Prep schools beginning in the 2014-15 school year.”

If true, the move would serve as the nail in the coffin of the historic Sheff case, a lawsuit that like the great case of Brown vs. Board of Education gave rise to the belief that in the United States of America, separate educational institutions are not only inherently unconstitutional, but also un-American.

The notion that Capital Preparatory Magnet School and its Principal Steve Perry should be associated with reducing racial isolation is absurd.

Capital Prep and Steve Perry have shown a complete and utter inability to provide equal educational opportunities for Latino children, children who are not fluent in English and children who need extra help due to their special education requirements.

To hand the children and parents of SAND Elementary school to a new company owned and operated by Steve Perry not only makes a mockery of Connecticut law but undermines the fundamental goals of the Sheff v. O’Neill case.

The fact that this outrage could occur under a Democratic Governor, a Democratic Lt. Governor, a Democratic Attorney General and a Democratic General Assembly says volumes about the Democratic Party’s failure to live up to the true meaning of its historic mandate.

It is virtually inconceivable that Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Attorney General George Jepsen would negotiate a Sheff settlement that was so damaging to the fundamental premise behind Sheff.

Greater racial isolation, discrimination against Latinos and disregard for those who require special education services is hardly what one associates with the legacy of the Democratic Party.

If Connecticut’s leading elected and appointed officials have signed off on this so- called “Sheff Agreement” then they have forfeited their rights to serve as representatives of the Democratic Party and its values.

As the Courant reports, the Hartford Board of Education’s approval would, “endorse those magnet programs and allow Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Perry’s group to manage SAND and Capital Prep. Current students could stay at SAND, which would remain a Hartford public school but have outside management.

“Perry’s group” being a private company that Steve Perry formed out of his home in 2012 and then moved its address to Capital Prep, a public school building while he submitted the paperwork to become a “non-profit” charter school management company under the federal IRS code.  The charter school management company status would allow Perry to utilize federal tax credit laws to duck certain federal tax requirements.

The Courant story goes on to explain that Perry, who has called teachers roaches, condemned unions and last Friday told an audience in New Jersey that traditional schools had become overly “feminized” to the Courant that, “SAND employees would still be union members but would work under unique labor rules created for the school.”

But separate of Perry’s bullying, anti-teacher, anti-union, sexist approach and commentary is an even more serious failure to fulfill the intent of the Sheff v. O’Neill lawsuit.

Connecticut’s Democratic leaders have less than twenty-four hours to step in an explain the facts or Mayor Pedro Segarra and the Hartford Board of Education appear poised to finally destroy the lawsuit that was supposed to have been used to ensure greater equality and justice in our state.

News Flash: Our Democracy at risk as Kishimoto/Poland set up “quick vote” to give Steve Perry sweetheart deal (updated)

Post updated:  Please note the wording of Tuesday’s Board of Education Agenda (a portion of text was missing when first posted)

STEP ONE:  Perry sets up his own company:  http://www.concord-sots.ct.gov/CONCORD/online?sn=PublicInquiry&eid=9740

STEP TWO: Perry moves company address to a Capital Prep, a Hartford Public School and registers it as a charter school management company for purposes of the federal tax code: http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/43-4669846/capital-preparatory-schools-incorporated.aspx

STEP THREE:  Board of Education Agenda – READ HIGHLIGHTED LANGUAGE

 

B. Executive Session (Pending litigation: Sheff v. O’Neill)

7. Approval to Implement Anticipated Sheff Agreement (Dr. Kishimoto and Chairman Poland)

“That the Hartford Board of Education approves the conversion of the High School, Inc. to a Sheff magnet school starting with the 9th grade in 2014-2015 with expansion to grade 12 by 2017-2018; approves the creation of a new Partnership Magnet School with Capital Community College, the Capital Community College Senior Academy; authorizes the Superintendent to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with Capital Community College regarding the creation of such new school; approves the creation of SAND as a Lighthouse School Design, with a non-profit management organization, Capital Prepatory Schools (”CPS”), managing both SAND (“Capital Prepatory School II”) and Capital Prepatory Magnet School; and authorizes the Superintendent to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with CPS regarding its role in managing the schools on behalf of, and in conjunction, with the Hartford Public Schools.”

If the Hartford Board of Education doesn’t stop this impending disaster, Steve Perry will be allowed to set up his own company and be given Capital Prep and Sand Elementary schools to run.

The move will make a mockery of the historic Sheff desegregation lawsuit and the tens of millions in public funds that have been spent to implement the Sheff settlement initiatives.

On Tuesday, November 19, 2013, the Hartford Board of Education will hold a meeting at 5:30pm at the Sarah J. Rawson School at 260 Holcomb St., Hartford, Connecticut.

The good news is that due to the parent and teacher uprising, Superintendent Kishimoto and Hartford Mayor Segarra have pulled their plan to close Clark School and hand it over to Achievement First, Inc. However, NOTE that the Board is not withdrawing the decision to allow Achievement First, Inc. to have another school in Hartford; they will just find a different location.

Meanwhile, in what may be one of the most brazen moves in Connecticut education policy, Kishimoto, Segarra and Board Chairman Matt Poland appear to be lining up a far more sinister and destructive plan that will allow Steve Perry to make millions while destroying the intent of the famous Sheff v. O’Neill desegregation lawsuit.

Just over a year ago, Capital Prep’s Principal Steven Perry, known for his bullying and inability to tell the truth about his school’s performance, set up a private company called CAPITAL PREPARATORY SCHOOLS INCORPORATED. He is the company’s only officer and while he first registered his company at his home in Middletown, he has since moved its official corporate address to Capital Prep, a public school owned by the City of Hartford.

The audacity to register a private company at a public school is incredible enough, but his propensity to put his private consulting ahead of the interests of his taxpayer-funded responsibilities as a public employee makes the move even more incredible.

According to documents presented to the Hartford Board of Education, his purported goal was to set up a private charter school management company and then have the City of Hartford give Capital Prep to his company to manage. In that way he would have “greater” freedom to run his school outside of the laws, regulations and guidelines of a public school while he still collected the guaranteed revenue that comes with having more than 500 public school children attending his school.

The Board of Education never acted on his original plan but he and his allies inside Hartford City government and the Malloy administration appear to have concocted a far more offensive strategy.

With no public hearing, no public input and a hurry up and vote strategy, the Hartford Board of Education is considering a vote at their upcoming Tuesday meeting to “approves the creation of SAND [elementary school] as a Lighthouse School Design, with a non-profit management organization, Capital Prepatory Schools (”CPS”), managing both SAND (“Capital Prepatory School II”) and Capital Prepatory Magnet School; and authorizes the Superintendent to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding [which would effectively be a no-bid contract] with CPS regarding its role in managing the schools on behalf of, and in conjunction, with the Hartford Public Schools.”

The action would allow Perry to shift from being paid as a Hartford Public School principal to the President of his own company where he could effectively set his own salary and hire a “management team” outside of the laws governing public education.

As indicated by the Hartford Board of Education’s agenda, that was only released Friday, Superintendent Kishimoto and Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland will brief the Hartford School Board behind closed doors, in secret, on Tuesday during an Executive Session and will then immediately vote on an extraordinarily broad, complex proposal affecting a series of school including the takeover of Sand School and the original Capital Prep Magnet school by the new private corporation called CAPITAL PREPARATORY SCHOOLS INCORPORATED, which is the entity owned and operated by Steve Perry.

The Hartford Board of Education Agenda Reads:

B. Executive Session (Pending litigation: Sheff v. O’Neill)

7. Approval to Implement Anticipated Sheff Agreement (Dr. Kishimoto and Chairman Poland)

That the Hartford Board of Education approves the conversion of the High School, Inc. to a Sheff magnet school starting with the 9th grade in 2014-2015 with expansion to grade 12 by 2017-2018; approves the creation of a new Partnership Magnet School with Capital Community College, the Capital Community College Senior Academy; authorizes the Superintendent to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with Capital Community College regarding the creation of such new school; approves the creation of SAND as a Lighthouse School Design, with a non-profit management organization, Capital Prepatory Schools (”CPS”), managing both SAND (“Capital Prepatory School II”) and Capital Prepatory Magnet School; and authorizes the Superintendent to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with CPS regarding its role in managing the schools on behalf of, and in conjunction, with the Hartford Public Schools.

By hiding the Capital Prep maneuver and the takeover of Sand School in a so-called “Sheff v. O’Neill” deal, Kishimoto, Mayor Segarra, Board Chairman Poland and the entire Board would prevent any meaningful review of the issues or public participation.

Unlike the situation at Clark School, where parents, teachers and the community had an opportunity to be heard and seen, thereby forcing the politicians to take the community’s concerns into consideration, the game-plan for Capital Prep and Sand School is designed to prevent public awareness or participation.

Equally appalling is Kishimoto and Poland’s claim that the effort to close Sand School and give it to Capital Prep or allow Perry to set up a lucrative private company to run Capital Prep is somehow required by the Sheff v. O’Neill lawsuit.

The historic Sheff lawsuit is against the State of Connecticut and the State has an obligation to negotiate a new implementation plan to reduce racial isolation in Hartford. It is unclear at this time whether the plan on the agenda has been approved by the State or the plaintiffs, or if it is a negotiating strategy to get the Hartford Board of Education to vote on this inappropriate plan as a way to force the State and the plaintiff’s to accept this unholy agreement.

Not only do Governor Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen have the lead responsibility for resolving Sheff issues but any agreement would need the approval of the State Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly.

For the Hartford Board to act now is inappropriate, outrageous and may very well be illegal.

The children of Hartford and the Hartford region, as well as the Connecticut taxpayers, deserve better.

And, equally important, Connecticut’s effort to reduce racial isolation in our urban schools deserves better too.

For Christina Kishimoto to suggest that the “bizarre game to line Steve Perry’s pockets and give him control of another Hartford public school is part of the Sheff solution is so insulting that it is inconceivable that Mayor Segarra and Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland would even consider participating in such a charade.

Tuesday’s Hartford Board of Education agenda may appear to be relatively simple, but no one should fool themselves, what Kishimoto et. al are trying to do would make Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting the most notorious in modern history.

Like in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, a vote to approve the Capital Prep plan would be a move to privatize a whole portion of the Hartford Public Schools in one fell swoop under the guise of trying to meet Sheff integration goals.

The notion is beyond belief and it is incredible that such an action would be contemplated when Connecticut has a Democratic Governor, Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Democratic Attorney General and a Democratic-controlled General Assembly.

Last year, the Mayor of Bridgeport, along with the corporate education reform industry spent a record amount of money to try to convince Bridgeport voters to give up their democratic rights and do away with a democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.

What Kishimoto is proposing for next Tuesday, apparently with the support of Mayor Segarra and Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland could be considered far worse.

If Kishimoto’s plan is approved, a mayoral-appointed Board would be handing control of two or more schools to a private company run by a profiteering, unaccountable, and controversial principal

If there was ever a moment to stand up to the excessive power of authority, that moment has arrived in Hartford.

Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman. Attorney General Jepsen, Democratic Legislators, Hartford Mayor Segarra, members of the Hartford Board of Education… history will record how you handle the Steve Perry power grab.

And it will record whose side you decide to take…

Will you side with Steve Perry or the students, parents, teachers and taxpayer of Hartford and Connecticut?