A report on Steven Adamowski and Windham – Because Parent’s Voices Matter

The announcement that Steven Adamowski would be forced to release his grip on Windham’s public schools was met with a variety of emotions in the community.  The huge sigh of relief was combined with an overwhelming sense of anger and bitterness on the part of many parents, teachers and public education advocates who had watched in horror as Adamowski, Governor Malloy’s point person when it comes to taking over local districts, engaged in a campaign of disruption and confrontation leaving parents, teachers AND local officials stunned.

The voters of Windham were saddled with a Special Master as a result of some legislative language that was inserted deep within the 2011 State Budget bill.   Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education then named Adamowski as Windham’s Special Master without an open process that even allowed for the community’s input. The process was a sad reminder that even the most sacred notion of local control can be destroyed in a moment.

There are numerous stories about Steven Adamowski’s arrogant and authoritarian “leadership style” and how he squandered a significant amount of money that the General Assembly had set aside to help improve educational opportunities for Windham’s children.

The CT Mirror wrote two major stories about Adamowski’s tenure as Windham’s Special Master.  CT school reform: 2 years under ‘special master’ and Connecticut sheds daily operations of Windham schools.  The articles are informative, but as parents and teachers out here in Eastern Connecticut will tell you, they only scratched the surface about the damage Adamowski did to the very schools he was sent to “save.”

The announcement that the Norwalk Board of Education is on the verge of appointing Adamowski as that community’s next superintendent of schools has re-ignited the bad memories that people in Windham have about Adamowski and his record.

A series of weekend conversations among those most knowledgeable about Adamowski’s time as Special Master in Windham produced the following article

Windham’s Experience with Special Master Steven Adamowski

There are those, some of whom apparently serve on the Norwalk Board of Education, who are enamored with the notion of “Education Reform” as trumpeted by non-educators like George W. Bush, Barak Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former Governor Jeb Bush and Governor’s such as Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy.

Rather than recognize that lack of educational achievement is driven by poverty, English language barriers and unmet special education needs, these “reforms” believe that answer lies in the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and a wholesale attack on teachers.

Over the years Steven Adamowski, formerly the Special Master of Windham, has worked to be seen as a leading school reformer.

However, those who have been most directly impacted by his actions are mystified that public officials would choose to hand their community’s students and schools over to him and his destructive leadership style.

Perhaps most important, Adamowski’s work in Windham was anything but efficient, effective or appropriate.

In fact, his tenure in the town was marked by clumsy, ill-advised policies that did little for the children of Windham, but served Adamowski well in creating the perception that he knew what he was doing.

In many instances, corporate school reformers have no more expertise than the next person on how to improve the public schools.  The reformers use impressive jargon and are fond of quoting “the research” to justify their labors. But close attention to what they are doing will soon reveal that, in so many ways, they are just making it up as they go along, trying this and that in a more or less opportunistic fashion. Although (like the rest of us) they have ideological predilections in their approach to education, they pretend that their point of view is value free truth or neutral “science.” They pretend that the corporatist managerial style they favor is simply the logical outcome of a “best practices” philosophy, confirmed by all “the research” as the only way to go. Reformers of the Adamowski mold will enact dramatic and far-reaching transformations to the local education system on the pretend basis that just about everything the town has been doing is simply wrong. But the point of these radical reforms is not to reconceive the system as such in a positive direction, but to radically destabilize it, making privatization initiatives much more palatable to some people in the local community.

Adamowski’s’ reign in Windham, as Special Master, was a disaster that made a bad situation worse. The State Department of Education took over Windham Schools because of a widening “achievement gap” between white and Hispanic students, and because the fiscal situation of the schools was far from healthy, as lean annual budgets failed to meet the real needs of the system. Windham is a poor town, with a fair number of people on fixed incomes and a sizeable cohort of landlords who live out of town. School budgets are invariably controversial. Cuts rather than increases have been the recent historical norm. The Windham school system clearly illustrates the inequities and injustices which arise from a school funding system strongly based in local property taxes.

Some people in Windham thought that the arrival of Special Master Adamowski would signal a moment of truth for the town. It seemed that once Adamowski took a close look at the recent history of Windham budgets he would be obliged to inform the community and the State that Windham’s children were not getting the support to which they were legally and morally entitled. But Adamowski decided to play politics. After years of enduring weak budgets, the school system was stressed even more by Adamowski, as he insisted on further cuts to make certain that the budget passed on a first town vote. This was a terrible strategy, both morally and politically. The not-so Special Master passed up a golden opportunity to educate the budget naysayers in the community; and he also sent the appalling message that the schools could function with LESS rather than more. Adamowski got his victory, as the budget passed on the first vote. But, his political victory was a hard defeat for Windham’s children, as now it will be even more difficult to propose realistic budgets in the future. Some Windham parents quickly realized that the Special Master had his own agenda in reforming Windham’s Schools and it was not at all clear that what he had in mind was good for the children.

The Special Master had secretive (possibly unethical) relationships with certain individual parents, but he made no special effort to engage the generality of Windham’s parents. He worked behind the scenes with one parent to bring an elementary charter School to Windham, but, even as he had the care of their children, to most parents, he seemed aloof and distant, like a colonial administrator among the natives. At no point did he hold a forum in which he sought an exchange of views with parents. It was as if the parents were irrelevant or invisible. Often, parents had no idea what was being done to Windham schools until they read about it in the local newspaper.

Adamowski is a true believer in the doctrine of “school choice,” wherein education is a “product” offered to “consumers” in a “free marketplace.”  As District Superintendent, Adamowski brought this dubious model to bear on the educational landscape of Hartford. He created numerous themed “academies” to “compete” with the local neighborhood public schools. Many studies have shown that school choice models are divisive and unequal: they tend to concentrate social and academic problems in certain schools and they wreak havoc with comprehensive education. The “school choice” model is most often applied to urban school districts, because the larger population makes a “portfolio” of schools a viable proposition. The model makes no sense at all in a small town or city, where there is only one high school. But this did not prevent Adamowski going out of his way to impose school choice on the district of Windham. For him, “school choice” is a formula to be applied at all times and in all places. With this end in mind, he made the unpopular decision to divide Windham High School into themed academies. Predictably, this division has been a source of community tension, as one academy is more esteemed than the other, and significantly out performs the other in standardized testing.

There was no demand from the Windham town folk for themed academies. In fact, students from Windham High protested the division of their school into two separate schools; and nor were the teachers enthusiastic about this major “reform.”  But Adamowski was not to be moved by the complaints of those he likes to call “the stakeholders.”  The Special Master had his mission to fulfill as a corporate reformer. In further pursuit of school choice, Adamowski bullied the local school board into accepting a student exchange with Parish Hill School in Hampton. A certain number of slots to Parish Hill would be paid for by the town of Windham. The Windham Board of Education initially did not support this proposal, as Windham is hardly in a positon to send town monies to another town! But Adamowski told them in no uncertain terms that he had the authority to carry out this policy, and he was going forward with it no matter what they said. This style of leadership is usually called dictatorship.

Adamowski made significant changes to the High School, mostly with an eye to creating “school choice” and keeping the budget super-lean. But his changes took services away from children to which they were entitled. Adamowski slashed bilingual programs, and he cut special education. He went after programs that did not fit into his dogmatic vision of academies as de facto separate schools.  Many teachers and support staff were demoralized by the rule of the Special Master, but living under dictatorship they could hardly voice their disapproval. Because Adamowski was given a free hand by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor to do with Windham as he wished, the Teacher’s union had no choice but to appeal directly to powerful figures in the State legislature. Certain legislators came to understand that Adamowski was being loosed upon Windham by the Malloy administration to test the limits of corporate school reform in Connecticut. Malloy’s people only started to see things from another perspective when it became clear that Adamowski’s shenanigans might prove costly to the Democrats in local elections. Agreements were reached (in political circles) to rein the beast in, but the beast still had some leeway to cause havoc on the end of its leash.

The Special Master threw himself into the Windham Middle School turnaround, where he was definitely not wanted. The turnaround committee had to fight hard to carry out the legal mandate to redesign WMS in a way that it saw fit. Adamowski and Pryor wanted the Committee to do their bidding, which was to take the school in the direction of corporate reform. Once again, the meddling of the Special Master led to some high level wheeling and dealing in political circles. In the end, Malloy’s people did exactly what you might expect: they declared Adamowski’s disastrous rule in Windham a great success, and then they pulled him out, so that he might live to fight another day.  Anyone familiar with the details of Adamowski’s tenure knew very well that the Special Master had failed abysmally in Windham. Most of his “reform” policies have had to be discontinued, as people came to see that they would not work. They realize that the budget picture is as bad as ever. The Adamowski dictatorship led to more white flight, more attrition of veteran teachers, and more divisiveness in the town over the schools.

In sum, Steven Adamowski is a prime example of all that is wrong with corporate school reformers. They promise more than they can deliver, because they refuse to look at the real social and economic factors that impinge upon education. Instead, they offer the banal and stupid formulaic “solutions” dreamt up in Educational Leadership Programs and right wing business schools. The myth of the managerial expert is very damaging, because it shifts the education conversation away from important social issues like justice and equality to technocratic concerns like “accountability” and “efficiency.” Adamowski has an underserved reputation for effective reformism. Windham is no better off than before he arrived at Special Master and many who know Hartford will testify that his work there was disastrous. The question has to be asked: why aren’t Steven Adamowski’s failures taken seriously; why is he not held accountable for his poor decisions and terrible policies? The short answer is politics. The long answer is politics. Pity the children whose education has to suffer so that some people can play nefarious political games.

Those who participated and watched Steven Adamowski’s work in Windham know the truth.  While people of good will can discuss and debate the wisdom of various efforts to improve public education and reduce the achievement gap in the United States, no one who has experienced Adamowski’s reign would give him yet another opportunity to damage the children who need and deserve so much better.

The Power of Truth (from a Concerned Parent in Windham)

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell 1984

This blog, like others that have been sent in from parents, shines the light of truth on the corporate education reform industry.

Read it and know that the time has come to either fight back or give up.  Silence is not an option.

From a Concerned Parent in Windham, Connecticut:

 “When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.” Humpty Dumpty must have been the Senior Marketing Consultant to those who are tasked with selling corporate education reform to the American public. Their taskmasters are undemocratic plutocrats like Bill gates and Eli Broad. The plutocrats are using their vast wealth to transform the public school system in accordance with their own political values and ideological vision. Marketing and public relations are so often about deliberate deception; and the marketing of “education reform” is no exception to this general rule. As used by the corporate propagandists, words like “reform,” “education,” and “opportunity” have taken on new, sinister meanings. “Reform” was once a concept that meant to amend, to change to better from worse–it was typically associated with progressive or liberal politics. The two great educational reforms of American history were the establishment of common schooling and the efforts to undo racial segregation of schoolchildren. Today, reform in education is almost exclusively a matter of privatizing schools and educational services. The root meaning of the word “education” is to lead out potential, to nurture native abilities. This once meant a focus on “child-based” pedagogy. Today, education means standardized testing, drilling and data collection and analysis. These are managerial, rather than student, concerns. “Opportunity” was once about social justice and racial equality; today it means “individual choice” in an “educational marketplace” based squarely in competition. When Humpty Dumpty, and his cohort in educational reform, get to redefine the meaning of words this is no simple linguistic matter; controlling words is an exercise in power, and when the powerful control the meanings, they tend to get control of other areas of social life–such as political power and economic resources.

When Alice goes down the rabbit hole with no inkling of “how in the world she was to get out again,” we are made to understand that she has entered a realm where the normal rules of language, reason and meaning no longer apply. As Alice says to herself: “what nonsense I am talking.” Nonsense–the absurd, the ludicrous, and the ridiculous–is the native language of Wonderland, and Alice gets caught up in it, despite her efforts to hold onto common sense. In the current universe of corporate education reform, where absurdity is passed off as a sound logic, many teachers, students and parents must feel like Alice: they see that nonsense has become normative, and that in order to get around in the new educational system, you have to speak a jargon devoid of rational meaning. In the Wonderland of privatized schools and data driven educational assessments, up is down and black is white.

Consider the Path Academy, a so-called “recuperative high school” that is due to open in Windham in August 2014. Path Academy is a charter school managed by Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), a youth development agency, “with the mission of helping urban youth become economically independent adults.” Path will primarily serve over-age, under-credited students. The curriculum at Path is designed to foster in students “the critical skills necessary for success in college, career, and community.” I am quoting from a promotional brochure for the Academy. The brochure says that many students “become disengaged [from high school] due to lack of understanding.” Path Academy promises to “re-engage” students through understanding, care and “active learning.”

Path Academy will provide “postsecondary preparation” and “workforce readiness.” It all sounds so great: a school with a focus on the socially disadvantaged; a school with an exciting curriculum and with caring knowledgeable staff. But the devil is in the details. When you take a close look Path’s pedagogical model that’s when you realize that you are being sold a bridge in Brooklyn, and that much in the promotional brochure is really nonsense.

Path will offer the “innovative education strategy” of “blended learning.” Whenever you hear the word “innovative” in corporate education reform be on your guard. In this instance, innovative pedagogy means “computer-based & teacher-led instructions” at “personal computer stations.” Translation: students will mostly be “taught” by electronic educational products; and students will complete their learning at private carrels, in virtual isolation from each other. The traditional classroom at Path will be a rarity. That is to say, a teacher in front of a group will probably be the exception rather than the rule. But education at Path is not really education in the sense most of us are familiar with. This is made explicit in a Norwich Bulletin article on the new school. The article quotes Path Principal Brooke Lafreniere on the hidden significance of the individual carrel: the carrel is not about a monastic space where the student can concentrate on reading Shakespeare; instead it will help prepare students for the office world, where employees are often placed in cubicles. Students will eat at their carrels, because, as Lafreniere notes, “when you have a job, there are days when you have to eat at your desk.” The use of space to drive home life lessons is also evident in the design of the classrooms. We are told that lower level classrooms will have small windows and low ceilings, whereas higher level classrooms will have larger windows, and higher ceilings. The point of the distinction is to force home the point that “hard work pays off.” I take it this means that students in lower level classrooms will find it so unpleasant there, that they will work their butts off in order to get into a better “learning environment.”  As LaFreniere says, “everybody wants to work toward the corner office.”

So when you strip away the rhetoric and confront reality, this is what Path Academy is offering:  online learning in controlled, off-putting settings. The real education at Path is not in academic matters, but in the social and cultural values that make one a “good employee.” John Dewey famously distinguished between a pedagogy that focused on “disciplinary training” and a pedagogy that nurtured “personal development.” Dewey thought that “disciplinary training” was not really education as its true purpose was social control. He argued that “personal development” was always something more than job training. And that it was the goal of personal development that made education properly humanistic. The language of Path Academy is a species of nonsense because it pretends that a corporate managerial model of the school as a learning factory can bring to fruition the ideals of humanistic education. Indeed, the very word “academy,” as used by the reformers, has almost no real meaning.

Path Academy is a privately managed charter school, but it would never survive without public funding. Like so much of corporate education reform, its real purpose is not to help the needy, but to steer the educational debate in the preferred direction of more privatization of public schools. The school described in the OPP promotional brochure is a veritable wonderland. It is wise to be skeptical of people who claim too much, and who are ready to sing their own praises. For the sake of the students who enroll there, I hope Path Academy turns out to be a success. But given the sorry and duplicitous “performances” of so many charter schools, I am definitely not counting on Path’s success.


A parent speaks out about Teach For America

There is a lot in corporate education “reform” that astonishes, but perhaps nothing is so astonishing as the strategic deployment of TFA. It’s counter-intuitive that untrained recent graduates will fare better in the classroom than seasoned teachers. And the reason that this notion feels counter-intuitive is quite simple: its contrary to common sense and cool reason. With rare exceptions, there is no way at all that a person with 5 weeks training can take commanding control of the classroom and lead the students with equanimity.

I have known young people who went into TFA, and while I thought highly of them as individuals, I did not think that they were prepared to do a better job of teaching than someone with professional training. There is a reason we have EDUCATION PROGRAMS. Yesterday, we took teaching seriously: we saw it as a profession, a vocation, which makes great demands on its practitioners. We understood that it was no small thing to get up in front of children and then ask them to follow you. But today we–meaning “they”!!–have completely trivialized teaching. They have decided that teaching is just like brushing your teeth or driving your car: just about anyone can do it!

TFA is insidious for a number of reasons. It’s an integral part of the corporate plan to de-professionalize teachers and to bring them under strict management control. Professionalism is anathema to the corporate types because professionals have too much workplace autonomy. We can’t have that in our brave new schools of “accountability.” Professionals typically form unions. And this is the real value of TFA for the “reformers”: it allows management to go around union contracts by using “contract labor”–i.e., the TFA cohort. And it will always be true that people on short term contracts are more vulnerable, more pliable and less invested in their place of employment. In short, TFA gives management a considerable degree of “flexibility.”

And TFA is not the best option for students. As Jon Pelto says, there are many unemployed teachers in Connecticut. If Hartford BOE has money to spend, it should spend it on real teachers for the benefit of the children. TFA is not only part of union busting, it is also, sad to say, an engine for increasing the ghettoization of the ghetto. When TFA went to New Orleans, thousands of public school teachers were laid off, many of them people of color, whose middle class jobs were crucial for the stability of certain neighborhoods. When these people lost their jobs, the impact on their communities must have been terrible. I’m sure the same thing will happen in Hartford, albeit on a much smaller scale. But Hartford needs every good job that it currently has, as the city’s economy is anything but promising.

Superintendent Kishimoto (in league with Stefan Pryor) is wreaking havoc on Hartford’s future. She is taking from the needy to give to those who are already glutted. TFA is a rich organization, backed by powerful wealthy people; it does not need a penny of public money. If they want to send “brilliant young people” to the poorest school districts, let them pay for it!

One hopes that some of the young people recruited to TFA will wake up and see the light. I understand that many have good intentions, but they have to realize that they are being used. I told one person I know who was in TFA that she should immediately disabuse herself of the idea that she was going to “save poor kids in the ghetto.” What could she know as someone who grew up with wealth what it is was like to live in a distressed community like Hartford? TFA encourages their “bright young things” to think of themselves as “game changers.” In my view, this is little else than an incitement to willful innocence or disgusting arrogance. And what is more, when the TFA “teacher” has a hard time of it and is forced to revise her “idealism,” it is easy to see that she might become bitter and cynical–hardly the attitudes you want in a leader of children…

I always say if TFA is so great then send them to the wealthy districts like Avon and Farmington, and the veteran teachers in those communities can come and teach in places like Hartford and Windham. Of course, I am well aware this would never happen!

“I am in control here” – A day in the life of Special Master Steven Adamowski

 “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House.” – Alexander Haig, Secretary of the State

It was March 30, 1981 and an assassination attempt sent President Reagan to the hospital.

Secretary of the State Al Haig called a press conference at the White House to announce, “Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.”

But of course, Al Haig had his facts wrong since the US Constitution requires that the line of succession is the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and then the Secretary of State.

The Haig moment is often used as a metaphor when someone inappropriately attempts to take power or control.

Just such a moment occurred earlier this week when Governor Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and Windham, Steven Adamowski, informed the New London Board of Education that he and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were the ones truly in charge when it came to selecting a new local superintendent of schools for New London.

As reported by The Day newspaper of New London, Peg Curtin, the head of the New London Board of Education explained, “I would like to see the community be involved…”I would just want to make sure everyone is heard.”

The newspaper then goes on to report that, “As a result of the state’s involvement in the city’s school system, Adamowski said, he or the state commissioner of education could review the candidates the board decides to interview and eliminate any they find to be unqualified.”

Adamowski explained, “We will not be in a situation where I or the commissioner is in a position of having to veto something the board wants to do or tell you not to do something…We would like to simply make sure that the depth and quality of the candidates that go before you as finalists is sufficient.”


The Connecticut General Assembly authorized the State Board of Education, in very limited circumstances, to name a “Special Master” to help communities improve their schools.  The Malloy administration has used that authority in two cases – Windham and New London.

In both cases the result has been a disaster.

While the title “Special Master” is absurd and insulting, the law was never intended to create a dictator who would be in position to destroy a community’s right to control its schools.

And yet is exactly what has been happening in the two communities.

Adamowski’s rhetoric is nothing short of an “Al Haig moment” and the citizens of New London and Windham better reach out to their local state senators and representatives to insure this modern-day Al Haig doesn’t get away with claiming powers he does not have.

A perfect example of the problem appears in the very same Day article.  The paper reports, “Adamowski has previously recommended that the new superintendent’s salary be set to a competitive level, that he or she be given a three-year contract and that the renewal of the superintendent’s contract be determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets established in the district’s strategic operating plan.”

A superintendent evaluation “determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets?

(AKA standardized test scores).

With that approach, New London parents and their local representative must move quickly to take back control of their schools so they can hire a superintendent who has the ability to fulfill all the duties associated with the job.

Because, as every parent, teacher and school board members understands, a superintendent’s job is so much more than improving test scores.

Superintendents are responsible for recruiting and retaining good administrators and teachers, for making sure special education student get the additional help they need and deserve, for developing and implementing effective bi-lingual and English Language Learning Programs, for improving early education opportunities, for reducing bullying and creating safer school climates, for seeking ways to reduce racial isolation, for ensuring scarce resources are well spent and the list goes on and on.

Despite Steven Adamowski’s apparent wish, Connecticut’s “Special Master” Statute was never intended to allow Pryor, Adamowski or anyone else to make decisions that are solely within the purview of the local Board of Education.

And if Adamowski claims he has special powers then citizens need to ensure legislators act to protect them from that power grab.

Al Haig’s comments that day in 1981 made him the laughing-stock of the world.

Adamowski’s claim that as “Special Master” he has “super powers” is equally absurd.

Or as the case may be, hey Steven, “you’re doing a heck of a job.”

You can find the latest Day article here:  http://www.theday.com/article/20131206/NWS01/312069954/0/SEARCH

And in Windham, parents and teachers speak out against Adamowski

Last week, at a forum sponsored by the Windham Federation of Teachers and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), parents, teachers and other local Windham residents met with State Senator Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-29) and State Representative Susan Johnson (D-49) to voice their outrage about the way “Special Master,” “Special Deal” Steven Adamowski has been undermining Windham’s schools.

Now the question is what are State Senator Williams and State Representative Johnson going to do about what they heard?

The “Special Master” law that Williams and Johnson sponsored was supposed to give Windham (and later New London) additional state support and resources.

Instead, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski has spent millions of dollars in state and local funds to push his corporate education reform industry agenda on the unsuspecting students, parents, teachers and citizens of Windham and New London.

Adamowski’s dictatorial and autocratic approach has angered parents, demoralized teachers, stunned local officials and left the schools in those two communities in chaos.

One of the most serious complaints has been Adamowski’s complete unwillingness to include parents, teachers and local officials in the decision making process.

Adamowski has repeatedly failed to follow Connecticut laws concerning the role of local school governance councils.

In Windham, Special Master Adamowski has completely mishandled the Windham Middle School “Turnaround” process.  After months of work by a committee made up of local parents, teachers and administrators, Adamowski hijacked the process and demolished the locally grown plan by threatening Windham that it would not get state funds unless his proposals were substituted for the ones approved by the local committee.

When the committee balked at Adamowski’ effort, the Special Master, with the help and support of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, threated to reject the plan leaving Windham without the funds it needed.

At the forum, Senator Williams and Representative Johnson also heard about Adamowski’s on-going efforts to reduce or eliminate bilingual and English Language Learner programs in Windham.

Both Windham and New London have seen an influx of families who use a language other than English as their primary language.  Rather than rise to meet that challenge, Steven Adamowski has been forcing policy changes that teachers say are having a profoundly negative impact on students who need extra help to succeed in school.

Adamowski’s long list of failings has been well documented over the past two years.

What has also been well documented are the issues related to the way he has spent state funds.

Adamowski has spent upwards toward $2 million, almost all of it without utilizing appropriate competitive bidding processes.

Numerous consultants and companies that he has done business with in the past have benefited from his largess.

But nobody has benefited more than Adamowski himself.

During the past two years, Adamowski has collected a total salary of $450,000 plus full medical and dental insurance for both himself and his wife.

The state has also paid for his professional and general liability insurance plus a stipend to pay for his life and disability insurance policies.

In addition to his taxpayer-funded salary and benefit package, Adamowski was given 25 days of vacation time per year, 15 days of paid sick time per year and 3 days of paid personal time per year.  Overall this means that in addition to all the paid holidays, Adamowski was able to use or accrue nearly nine weeks of paid time off each year…that is four and half months of paid time over during the contract period.

And to top things off, just this past August, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor made Steven Adamowski a state employee.  The move was made before the State Board of Education had even decided whether to continue the Special Master’s role and the job Adamowski was given was never posted nor did he have to go through any process to get the position.

At last week’s AFT forum, State Senator Williams and State Representative Johnson heard about all these issues and more.

But to reiterate the obvious, the question is now what are these legislators going to do to stop Adamowski from doing even more damage to their community’s schools.

Senator Williams/Representative Johnson: Windham’s children, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better

[A long but important post] Tomorrow, (Oct 2nd)  State Senator Don Williams and State Representative Susan Johnson are scheduled to meet with their constituents about the damage “Special Master”, “Special Deal” Steven Adamowski is doing to their community.

The children, parents, teacher and taxpayers of New London deserve a similar meeting with their elected officials.

No matter how well intentioned the effort to install a “Special Master” for Windham and New London may have been, legislators should recognize that Steven Adamowski has undermined the fundamental rights of those two communities while significantly damaging the local school systems in the name of corporate education reform.

With virtually no over-sight or appropriate checks and balances, Steven Adamowski has collected more than $500,000 in salary and benefits over the past twenty-four months and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds on no-bid contracts with people and companies he has worked with in the past.

Rather than step in to stop Adamowski’s abuses, state officials, led by the Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, have provided Adamowski with cover.

The latest, and most egregious of these actions was to give Adamowski a six-figure state job before the State Board of Education even voted to extend Adamowski’s role as “Special Master”

Adamowski’s unsupervised expenditures should have been enough to convince legislators to repeal the Special Master legislation.  But sadly, Adamowski’s damage goes far beyond how he has expended public funds.

“Special Deal” Adamowski has earned that name over and over again;  the time has come for Connecticut’s elected officials, and especially Windham’s state legislators to put an end to Adamowski’s reign of abuse.

As State Senator Don Williams and State Representative Susan Johnson review the facts, they should pay special attention to the following issues;

  • The role of “Special Master” was intended to augment local control by administrators, teachers, parents and taxpayers.  It was never intended to destroy the rights of local citizens to run their schools.  In the United States, no one, especially in the Constitution State, deserves to be treated like second class citizen but that is exactly what has happened in Windham (and New London).  When it comes to setting public policy and the use of public funds, Adamowski has consistently undermined the right of self-governance and has conducted himself in an autocratic and dictatorial fashion.
  • Legislators may have believed the Special Master legislation was a mechanism to get more attention and financial support for their district’s schools, but the process has become a tool for Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Steven Adamowski to push their politically driven corporate education reform agenda.  Windham’s students, parents and teachers have become guinea pigs in a failed education reform experiment that undermines the role of teachers, privatizes local education and seeks to pigeon-hole students into pre-determined categories and outcomes.

Malloy/Pryor; It is time to come clean on “Special Deal” Steven Adamowski

Why did the Malloy Administration rush through hiring Steven Adamowski?

Why did Adamowski start in his new state position even before the State Board of Education voted to extend his appointment as Special Master for the Windham and New London school systems?

It turns out the answer, at least in part, can be found in the no-bid contract Adamowski was given in July 2011.

More than two years ago, with the support of Windham state legislators, State Senator Donald Williams and State Representative Susan Johnson, the Connecticut General Assembly authorized the creation of a Special Masters position with the adoption of Section 138 of Public Act 11-16.

A month later, without any open, competitive bidding or review process, Malloy’s Acting Commissioner of Education gave the Special Master’s job to Steven Adamowski by directing the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire him, a move that later drew a rebuke from the Connecticut State Auditors.

The contracted, signed July 25, 2011 provided that Adamowski would begin on August 15, 2011 and that, “The Agreement term shall be from August 15, 2011 to August 14, 2013.”  The amount of Adamowski’s compensation was set at $450,000 for the two year period.

Fast-forward two years later…

By stuffing Steven Adamowski into a state position effective August 30, 2013, the Malloy Administration was ensuring that Steven Adamowski wouldn’t miss a pay-period despite the fact that his no-bid SERC contract ran out effective August 15, 2013.

Although Adamowski has been making $4,327 every two weeks for the past two years, Commissioner Stefan Pryor cut corners to put Adamowski on the state payroll effective August 30, 2013 even though the State Board of Education hadn’t even voted to extend Adamowski’s term as “Special Master.”

Was the State Board of Education taken for a ride or worse, did they know that a special deal with Adamowski was already a done deal and chose not to say anything?

On September 4, 2013, the State Board of Education, under the leadership of Board Chairman Allan Taylor, voted to extend Adamowski’s contract as Special Master.  At the time, neither Pryor nor Taylor publically informed the State Board of Education or the public that Adamowski had already been hired by the state.

In fact, Pryor clearly implied, and his public relations staff confirmed to the media, that the vote would allow Pryor to hire (future tense) Adamowski as a state employee.

However, a set of state emails acquired this week reveal that Pryor’s staff was already working feverishly to get Adamowski on the state payroll long before the State Board of Education voted to allow Adamowski to continue his role as Special Master.

In an email dated Wednesday, August 28, 2013 (5:47 p.m.), for example, Stefan Pryor’s Chief of Staff, Adam Goldfarb, wrote to Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management saying, “the very time-sensitive durational position we discussed is heading to your approval queue.  Could you please do us a favor and look out for it?  Need to get it all the way done by Friday!  Thank you, Adam.”

The entire episode raises numerous questions, but the most significant question of all is what did the State Board of Education know and when did it know it?

If would be disturbing indeed if the State Board of Education knew about this charade and remained silent.

Special Master Steven Adamowski’s wild spending spree with Connecticut’s tax dollars

Since the Malloy administration gave Steven Adamowski his no-bid contract to serve as “Special Master” for Windham and New London, Adamowski has collected a salary of about $450,000 for himself and another $168,000 for his staff.  Add in over $140,000 more for health and insurance benefits, $17,000 for travel and $29,000 for equipment and it starts to become clear just how much Connecticut’s taxpayers are “investing” in Adamowski and his “management style.”

Equally troublesome is Adamowski’s free hand with the state’s check book.

According to documents collected from a series of recent Freedom of Information requests, over the past two years, Adamowski has been on a massive spending spree of public funds in his capacity as “Special Master.”

In addition to ordering local officials in Windham and New London about how they should be spending their funds, Adamowski has his own stash of state funds to play with.

Over the past two years Adamowski has spent $132,000 on engineering projects and studies with a company called Friar Associations (There was no competitive bidding conducted related to those projects).  Another engineering company, Gale Associates out of Weymouth, Massachusetts picked up another $15,250 courtesy of Adamowski.

The Center for Reform of School Systems, a consulting group out of Houston, Texas was given $39,000 in a no-bid contract to “provide 6 additional days of service for New London Special Master Grant Program.”

And the National SAM Innovation Project, a consulting operation out of the Jefferson County Public School System in Louisville, Kentucky collected $12,700 in another no-bid contract for services.

The law firm of Shipman & Goodwin received $34,000 (no-bid contract) and Adamowski dropped $12,370 on a company called Telogis for some refurbished computers, which came on top of his $29,000 equipment budget.

The organization called Leadership Greater Hartford was paid $34,000 to train Windham’s local school governance councils which is particularly ironic since Adamowski has consistently refused to include the school governance councils in key decision making, despite a Connecticut law that requires these local councils of parents, teachers and citizens to be consulted.

Another direct beneficiary of Adamowski’s spending has been CompassLearning, the Dallas based corporate entity that owns the rights to sell site licenses for the so-called Renzulli Academy.  Despite very strong opposition to Adamowski’s push to open Renzulli Gifted and Talented schools in Windham and New London, CompassLearning was paid $22,500 in public funds for Renzulli Annual Site Licenses for ALL Windham schools.

The Connecticut Science Center, the publicly funded science museum in Hartford, which was supposed to “partner” with Windham’s new STEM Magnet School, was paid more than $90,000.

And Teach for America collected a finder’s fee of at least $35,000 from Adamowski, on top of the $33,000 that Teach for America received from the Windham School System.  Wait, What? readers may recall that while TFA charges most cities $2,500 to $3,000 for each TFA recruit they place in a local school, Adamowski signed a deal with Teach for America that guaranteed them $4,000 per TFA recruit.

Add in another $72,000 for computer based “MAP Assessment testing” and tens of thousands of dollars that are simply listed as “teacher stipends” or “professional development” and we start to get a clearer picture of how the “Special Master” is spending taxpayer funds in a “special way.”

Perhaps the oddest expense of all are two checks totaling $125,000 that were written as part of Adamowski’s on-going effort to “persuade” the Town of Windham to purchase the propriety municipal finance software called MUNIS.  Adamowski has been engaged in a similar effort to force New London to choose MUNIS as their software vendor.

It all bring us back to the key question of why Connecticut’s legislators or Connecticut’s auditors haven’t stepped in to put a stop to Adamowski and his no-bid, no-rules spending spree of our scarce public funds.

Adamowski Pension Charade continues

On August 29, 2013, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski was completing his second year under a $225,000 no-bid contract that the Malloy Administration had run through the State Education Resource Center.

The next day, August 30, 2013, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski was a Connecticut state employee, holding the title of Durational Project Manager.

Same duties, different employer.

Steven Adamowski is so “special” that the Malloy/Pryor Operation didn’t even bother to post the position or follow any type of competitive or open hiring process.

The words Steven Adamowski and Special seem to go hand in hand.

Although only certified teachers are allowed to participate in the State Teachers Retirement System, a loophole in the state statutes will allow Steven Adamowski, who IS NOT CERTIFIED to teach or certified be a school administrator; to use his new job in the Malloy administration to add years to his Teachers Retirement pension.

Alternatively, Adamowski can use his new state position to guarantee himself full retired state employee health benefits assuming he works for the state for five years.

As retired school teachers and administrators know, Connecticut’s teacher retirement health insurance program is limited and getting more and more expensive.

While retired state employees receive more substantial and less-expensive health insurance, retired teachers are facing higher and higher premiums.  Some retired teachers are coming face to face with the reality that they simply can’t afford even the more limited health insurance package that is available to them.

But thanks to Governor Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski will not only collect a pension from the Teachers Retirement System, but if he continues to play his cards right he’ll get to retire with the state’s retired state employee health plan that could be worth $20,000 or more a year…..for life.

But as noted above, Steven Adamowski is used to special treatment.

  • On the last day of the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2007 legislative session an amendment was added to a bill that allowed Steven Adamowski to serve as Hartford’s superintendent of schools despite the fact that he did not have the certification to be a superintendent in Connecticut.  He held that position for five years.  The only other person to benefit from that section of the Connecticut state statutes is none-other-than Paul Vallas (although they had to change the statute to try to fit his particular circumstances). 
  • Then, speaking of special treatment, in 2012, when Governor Malloy introduced his “Education Reform” legislation, Section 32 of Malloy’s bill sought to retroactively give Steven Adamowski Teacher Retirement pension credits for his time as Hartford’s superintendent.  Following widespread publicity about the end-run to boost Adamowski’s pension, the legislature removed the special language. 
  • Meanwhile, it was about the same time that Adamowski got his no-bid, $225,000 plus benefits contract to serve as “Special Master” of Windham.  His role was later expanded to serve as “Special Master” for both Windham and New London. 
  • The contract to serve as “Special Master,” included language that tried to allow him to tap into the Teacher Retirement System for his time as “Special Master,” but he was once again blocked from adding years due to his lack of teacher certification.

But now, thanks to the decision to make him a state employee, Adamowski is back in the driver’s seat, where is able to add years to his Teachers Retirement Pension or go for the more generous health benefits.

Whether you call him a Friend of Dan (FOD) or a Friend of Stefan (FOS) there is simply no question that Steven Adamowski is special!

NEWS FLASH: Steven Adamowski hired as state employee before State Board of Education met to extend Special Master’s role.

As if it couldn’t get any more unethical or bizarre, official State of Connecticut documents reveal that “Special Master” Steven Adamowski became a $162,000.09, Durational Project Manager on August 30, 2013….

Five days before the State Board of Education met to receive the Special Master’s report on his work in Windham and New London and to decide whether or not to extend his term as Special Master for the two communities.

As reported here in Wait, What?, the Hartford Courant and other media outlets, Steven Adamowski was given a no-bid $225,000 plus benefits contract through the State Education Resource Center two years ago.

On September 4, 2013, upon the recommendation of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the Connecticut State Board of Education meet and voted to extend Steven Adamowski’s term as “Special Master” for one year.

At the meeting, Pryor announced that Special Master Steven Adamowski would taking a $62,000 pay cut to become a state employee in the State Department of Education, rather than remain an employee of SERC, the State Education Resource Center.

The move by Pryor and the State Board of Education generated a post here entitled What the Hell is going on: Pryor and State Board of Education make Adamowski a State Employee (September 5th)

Yesterday, a follow up article was published entitled News Flash: Mystery solved: Pryor’s appointment of Adamowski as state employee will push up Special Master’s pension! (September 9th).  This story reported that the move from SERC employee to state employee would allow Adamowski to boost his pension.  The post read, “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.”

But now comes even more incredible news.

According to the hiring papers filed with the state, Commissioner Stefan Pryor appears to have hired Adamowski BEFORE the State Board of Education even decided whether to extend Adamowski’s term as Special Master.

The hiring documents reveal a hire date of August 30, 2013.

It is not clear how Pryor received the legal authority to hire Adamowski to the $162,000 durational project manager job….

It is even less unclear how Pryor could have managed to hire Adamowski before the State Board even met to consider continuing Adamowski’s status as Special Master.