CT Post Editorial: A long-overdue step on charters

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The Connecticut Post has published a powerful editorial about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school debacle and the Malloy Administration’s failure to properly oversee the growing charter school industry in Connecticut.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s minions of charter school allies are diverting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies that have been allowed to open up charter schools or have been given no-bid contracts to run local public schools in Connecticut’s poorest communities.

The editorial lays out the stark facts about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and its contract to run the Bridgeport neighborhood school known as Dunbar.

The CT Post doesn’t even get to the fact that Commissioner Pryor, Pryor’s Division Director in charge of turnaround schools, and their new Bureau Chief in the turnaround schools division all worked for Achievement First, Inc., Connecticut’s largest charter school management company, before getting their state jobs.

Together, Pryor and his two top charter school lieutenants are earning about $500,000 in salary and benefits, courtesy of Connecticut’s taxpayers.  And while we pay, they are spending their time undermining Connecticut’s public school system.

The Connecticut Post editorial does observe,

It is almost beyond belief that the state Department of Education, its hand finally forced, is just now ordering all charter schools and charter school management firms in Connecticut to conduct background checks on the people being entrusted with the care of children.

The department acted only after Michael P. Sharpe, director of a company the state picked to turn around Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, was discovered to have convictions for forgery and embezzlement, and no doctoral degree, as claimed.

So, in this case at least, with the horse long out of the barn, the department announced with a flourish that it will sic a special investigator on FUSE — Family Urban — and Jumoke Academy, a Hartford charter school that FUSE also runs.

The state department also said it will make charter schools and their management companies to adhere to anti-nepotism and conflict-of-interest policies established for public school districts.

Well, how about that?

“Today’s actions may not be the limit of what we undertake,” intoned Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.

What’s next? Triple secret double-dog probation?

[…]

FUSE, for one thing, received $435,000 from the state in so-called Commissioner’s Network money, money designed to help turn around particularly low-functioning schools in the state.

You can read the complete editorial at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-long-overdue-step-on-charters-5593806.php

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

Squelching dissent in Bridgeport City Hall (by Carmen Lopez)

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This commentary piece first appeared in the CT Post on June 25, 2014 

The 1949 movie “All the King’s Men,” based on the novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren, opens with the main character, Willie Stark, confronting political corruption in a small southern town.

Stark, played by Broderick Crawford, claims that a schoolhouse was built with substandard material and that the cost was inflated by a politically connected contractor. The political establishment tries to silence Willie, by concocting and pretending to enforce a non-existent ordinance which prohibits addressing a public gathering.

Thugs are sent to assault his son while the lad is attempting to pass out campaign flyers.

Stark loses the election for county treasurer, but when a stair case in the new school collapses, killing several children, those who attend the funeral show genuine remorse.

“We should have listened to you, Willie,” the mourners sob, although it is too late to save the dead school children.

At the February 2014 meeting of the Bridgeport Board of Education Facilities Committee, committee chairman John E. Bagley, in the best tradition of democratic populism, allowed members of the public to be heard. The topic was the proposed construction of a new Harding High School on a contaminated Boston Avenue site owned by General Electric and used as a factory for many years.

Any objective review of the transcript of the Facilities Committee meeting reveals that Bagley was fair, even handed and respectful.

The debate was not one-sided. Members of the Finch administration were given the floor, as were construction trade members, as well as a member of Finch’s Republican choir. All opinions were solicited, all input was welcomed, and no one was demeaned in the process.

So how did Mayor Finch, his appointees, and press personnel react? In a word, they were apoplectic!

How dare John Bagley bring a little participatory democracy to Bridgeport, they fumed. He had some nerve allowing the masses to speak before well-paid city and state employees.

Some even claimed that Bagley had violated Robert’s Rules of Order and the Freedom of Information Act.

Of course, in the best tradition of the fictitious ordinance applied to Willie Stark, no provision of Robert’s Rules of Order or the FOIA prohibits the receipt of public input.

Bridgeport officials seem to fear the voice of the people. Therefore, officials and employees routinely and reflexively seek to squelch meaningful public participation in the governmental process.

The city’s opposition to public participation surfaced once again at the June Facilities Committee meeting. This time the issue was a new roof for Bassick High School. John Bagley continued his policy of allowing parents and community members to address the committee concerning this long-delayed roof repair project.

Since a City Council Resolution had established a building committee in 2011 to facilitate the roof repair, those in attendance wanted to know “what is taking so long?”

Bridgeport’s Director of Facilities, Jorge Garcia, objected to the public participation and was very annoyed.

Fortunately, after 11 years in the National Basketball Association, John Bagley can recognize trash talk when he hears it. The public was able to have its say, much to the frustration of the city employees in attendance.

The unreported story and the unanswered questions are these: Why does the Finch administration continue to make an issue of the fact that an elected official gives the people who elected him the right to be heard on issues of public importance? What are Mayor Finch and his administration afraid of?

Instead of focusing on whether the people of Bridgeport should be allowed to speak and voice their opinion, perhaps attention should be redirected, particularly on the Harding issue, to the many unanswered questions, such as:

1. In December 2010, the site of the existing Harding High School was designated as the site of the new school by state officials. In fact, in an April 2, 2010 article, the Connecticut Post quoted Mayor Finch as saying that the existing Central Avenue location could be used for the new school. Did the proposed location change before, or after, the illegal school board takeover in July 2011? What role did the chairman of the illegally appointed Board, Robert Trefy, the former president of Bridgeport Hospital, play in the decision to change the location?

2. Is there a contract requiring General Electric to convey 17 acres of the Boston Avenue site to the city of Bridgeport? If the answer is yes, what are the terms of the contract and why has no-one seen a copy?

3. The proposed site is adjacent to Remington Woods. If contaminants migrate, through flooding, ground water, or other means, who will be responsible for any subsequent remediation?

4. Why were zoning approvals sought, and outside counsel paid $10,000 before we know the site is safe, and approved by the State Department of Administrative Services or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection?

6. Has any site as contaminated as the GE property on Boston Avenue been approved for use as a school anywhere in the state of Connecticut?

These are only a few of the important questions, which have been highlighted and which have gone unanswered by City officials and their corporate collaborators at O & G Industries, Inc. Instead, we are asked, why did John Bagley allow the people to be heard?

The refusal to answer legitimate questions, while accusing the questioners of “delay” is inevitably the last refuge of a political scoundrel bereft of a cogent argument.

Members of the Bridgeport City Council and the BOE must not be coerced into silence, or stampeded into hasty action, by the mayor and his political spin doctors.

Twenty years from now, we don’t want to listen to an anguished citizen exclaim, “We should have listened!”

By then, it will be too late.

Carmen Lopez is a community activist and a former Superior Court judge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will politics prevent justice from being served – the Kenneth Moales Story Continues

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The controversy surrounding Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. expands even further

Documents on file with the Connecticut Superior Court and the City of Bridgeport reveal that while Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. and his family collected more than $8 million dollars from a Midwestern mortgage company that specializes in providing construction loans to evangelical and other churches, the building that Moales built was only a fraction of what was required in the loan agreement and corresponding documents.

Where the rest of the construction money went raises even more questions about Moales’ financial operations.

As Wait, What? readers know, thanks, in part, to the Malloy administration and the administration of Mayor Bill Finch, Reverend Kenneth Moales. Jr and his family are now pulling in close to $1 million a year in state-funded daycare subsidies.

Just last August, the Moales family received their third daycare license from Malloy’s Department of Public Health despite the fact that the building in which the daycare center is housed does not have a permanent certificate of occupancy or the appropriate zoning approvals, both of which are required to get a state daycare license.  The same building also houses Moales’ private kindergarten through 8th grade church-owned religious elementary school.

As background for newer Wait What? readers, Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. was appointed by Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s administration to serve on the appointed board that illegally took control of the Bridgeport School system.

After the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the state’s action was illegal, Moales won a seat on the democratically-elected board of education as a member of Bill Finch’s endorsed slate.  Moales eventually was named Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and although he lost that position after the last election, he remains a current member of the board.

As a member of the illegal board and then the democratically-elected board, Kenneth Moales Jr. served as corporate education reform guru Paul Vallas’ staunchest supporter.  Moales also served as Governor Malloy and Mayor Finch’s point person in the ongoing effort to privatize Bridgeport’s Schools.

Most recently Kenneth Moales Jr. showed up as the biggest champion for Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry’s attempt to open a charter school in Bridgeport, a proposal that was inappropriately rushed through the approval process by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, with the support of Malloy’s appointees to the State Board of Education.

While Moales has had an amazing ride the past couple of years, the bigger question is whether Malloy, Finch and Moales’ other political allies will be able to help Moales with his financial problems including a lawsuit seeking to foreclose on Moales’ church and its properties, including the buildings that house the three daycare centers, the church school and his own residence.

But separate of the foreclosure lawsuit is the fact that Moales and his family improperly billed for their daycare services.

Although the Bridgeport Board of Education was never informed of the problem, when Moales was Chairman of the Board of Education, the family’s daycare centers were caught double billing Bridgeport’s Board of Education and the Connecticut State Department of Education to the tune of $75,000 over a 4 month period in 2013.  While the State Department of Education had docked the Bridgeport Board of Education for the funds, it is not clear whether the Board of Education has made an attempt to force Moales to pay back all of the money.

But Moales’ problems are much bigger than billing $75,000 he didn’t have a right to receive.  They are even bigger than the questions surrounding how he managed to get a third daycare center license and how that facility is still open when it doesn’t have the proper inspections and zoning approvals.

Moales’ biggest problems are related to the $8 million mortgage that the Moales family received to build their church and the foreclosure effort that is now underway to take all of his properties for failing to pay back that mortgage.

A series of official documents make clear that in early 2006, Kenneth Moales Sr. filed an application to build a “new church facility” that required several waivers and special-permit approval from the City of Bridgeport.

On April 10, 2006, the Connecticut Post reported that the Moales’ church would be a two phase project. Phase I would incorporate a sanctuary and Phase II would incorporate a 500 seat hall, bowling alley, swimming pool, basketball court and classrooms.

In April 2006, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the application with four conditions which included that “All construction shall be in strict accord with plans submitted.”

In May 2006, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the application for a Special Permit “for the establishment of a House of Worship.”  The Special Permit approval expired on May 29, 2007. Neither application referenced the establishment of a daycare or a school.

The Building Permit was issued on November 20, 2007, well after the Special Permit expiration of May 29, 2007. The application clearly states that the project was for the construction of a church or selected other uses, but fails to make any reference to a separate permit that would be needed to construct a school or other “Educational 12th Grade or less” building.

In December 2007, Foundation Capital Resources, Inc., the Midwestern mortgage company, approved a first mortgage for $6.1 million. In December 2008, it approved a second mortgage for $1.2 million and in September 2009 approved a third loan for $850,000.

The records indicate that in early 2008, the construction on the new church began and it was apparently completed in late 2010.

The new church opened in early 2011 without ever receiving a Certificate of Occupancy as required by law.

In September 2011, the Connecticut Post ran a story on the ribbon cutting ceremony of the K-8 school.  Apparently, as a result of that news story, the Bridgeport Fire Marshal learned of the existence of the school and went to conduct a full inspection.

On September 22, 2011, the inspector wrote, “This building has not completed its CO inspection but is being occupied as an assembly (church) and a school.”

Upon contacting the Zoning Office, the inspector was informed that the school is permitted with a special permit from Planning and Zoning. The only problem is an application for a Special Permit to operate a “school” was never submitted to Planning Zoning; therefore, a Special Permit was never approved or issued.

But putting aside the inspection and approval issues, there is the extraordinary revelation that although the mortgage company provided Moales with all of the construction loan funds, most of “Phase II” of the project was never built. This includes the hall, bowling alley, basketball court and an entire wing of classrooms.

Although the documents lay out the details surrounding the construction of the new church, they provide no information as to why the mortgage company would approve disbursements on the loans when the building project did not adhere to the construction documents nor do they explain what happened to the millions of dollars that were intended for the Phase II construction of the church but apparently used for something else.

If justice is to be served, independent investigations are needed now more than ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the scandal surrounding Moales, Finch, Vallas, Pryor and Malloy grows.

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After reviewing the facts, it is clearly time for a truly independent investigation into the Moales daycare center operation…

Here are the facts;

We know that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is Governor Malloy’s loudest supporter in Bridgeport.

We know that Reverent Kenneth Moales Jr. is Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer.

We know that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. played a pivotal role in the illegal state takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

We know that as a member of both the illegal and democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education, Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. was one of Paul Vallas’ most influential backers and a leading advocate for the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport.

And we know that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. was instrumental in working with Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry to orchestrate the State Board of Education’s inappropriate approval for a new charter school in Bridgeport that will be owned by Steve Perry’s private company.  According to Perry’s charter school proposal, Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. will sit on the Board of Directors for the new charter school.

But after those key facts, things get very murky.

Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. is facing an extremely serious foreclosure suit that seeks to take his church and all the church’s property including Moales’ house, cars and belongs.

Moales’ church also rents space to a series of daycare centers that, according to the Internal Revenue Service, is called Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc.

From 2008-2012, the company collected over $2.3 million in taxpayer funds and that was before the company received an influx of cash from the Malloy administration’s expanded early childhood program and before the company was caught over billing by at least $75,000.

According to the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s records, Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc. is actually registered as PRAYER TABERNACLE KINGDOM’S LITTLE ONES IN CHRIST, INC.

The records recorded with the Secretary of the State indicate the company is owed by Bishop Kenneth Moales Sr. (now deceased) and Peggy Moales (his wife). The company was created in 1999, but has not filed any of its annual reports since 2004.

On the other hand, the Connecticut’s Department of Public Health has given daycare center licenses to Kingdom’s Little Ones (1243 Stratford Avenue, Bridgeport) and Kingdom’s Little One Academy (1277 Stratford Avenue, Bridgeport). Both properties are owned by Kenneth Moales’ church.

One of the centers is run by Kenneth Moales Jr’s mother, Peggy Moales while the other is run by his sister, Kenya-Moales-Byrd.

As part of Governor Malloy’s early childhood initiative, the Moales family “won” a contract to provide 60 of the 72 new early childhood slots in Bridgeport.  The contract appears to have gone to the Kingdom’s Little One Academy but the problem is the daycare centers were not licensed to handle the influx of children.

Although the contract provided that centers must be up and running by November 2012, the Moales family did not get a license for a daycare center to serve those slots until August 15, 2013 – at least ten months after the required date.

The New License, which carries the number 70117, was issued on 8/15/2013.  However, the building, located at 729 Union Avenue in Bridgeport (another property owned by Moales’ church) may still not have a permanent certificate of occupancy, a criteria that must be met before a provider can open a daycare center.

According to emails and memos acquired from a variety of state entities, professional staff at the Connecticut State Department of education were well aware of the problems associated with the Moales’ daycare centers and were diligently trying to get the unused slots moved to a daycare enter that could provide Bridgeport’s children and parents with the daycare services they were entitled to.

Following information provided by the professional staff at the State Department of Education, the Bridgeport School Readiness Council voted on February 19, 2013 to move unused spaces from the Moales daycare center to a center called Cheyenne’s Daycare.

On February 26, the state determined that the Moales’ center could keep 42 slots and 18 others would go to Cheyenne’s Daycare.

But by summertime it became increasingly clear that something was seriously wrong with the Moales daycare operation and that they had never acquired the license needed to utilize those additional 42 slots.

An email to Kenneth Moales’ sister on August 1, 2013 from the State Department of Education reads,

“There are 42 children that were to attend Union St [the new Moales center] but the site did not open and I have no confirmed indication of a date when it will open.  These spots were claimed on Peggy” [Moales] site but we know there not served at that site.  [Peggy’s license only allowed 15 total students].  So, again, since Peggy is claiming 57 students on her monthly report, I assume you are serving them at your site.  But, you only have 19 approved School Readiness spaces at your site.

[…]

….Each month you are being paid for 76 spaces but at this poi t you are only approved for 15 at Petty’s site and 19 at your site.

By September 2013, the State Department of Education’s office of Internal Audit issued the following finding,

“We reviewed documentation supplied by the Office of Early childhood’s Program Manager in connection with school readiness funded programs at Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare facilities located in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  We believe that the program was overpaid by approximately $75,114 (27 children x 4 months x $695).  We recommend that the Office of Early childhood work with SDE’s Bureau of Fiscal Services to pursue a refund from Bridgeport.

The State Department of Education then issued a refund request writing that said,

The refund request should go to the Bridgeport Public Schools and indicate that it is applicable to Kingdom’s Little Ones.  The Bridgeport Schools will do two things; 1) refund the funds to SDE and 2) work out the details with the Program(s) to recover their funds – likely some kind of monthly recovery, spreading the pain.

But then, in a surprising and suspicious twist, on October 1, 2013, Paul Vallas stepped in to try and stop the state from recouping the money it was owed by filing an appeal.

The appeal was eventually rejected and the state is now working to collect the taxpayer funds it is owed.

When the story is laid out, perhaps the most telling point of all is that Kenneth Moales Jr. was the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education at the time these events unfolded and the Board of Education was apparently never informed that their Chairman’s company had overbilled the City and state by $75,000.  Furthermore, the Board of Education was never told that Vallas, on behalf of the Board of Education, was attempting to stop the state from collecting the misspent funds.

Paul Vallas is now long gone, but the rest of the players are still very much on the scene.

The interrelationships between Moales, Finch, Pryor and Malloy run so deep and the allegations are so serious that a truly independent investigation is needed.

In the meantime, as noted above, Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. should relinquish his seat on the Bridgeport Board of Education.

State agency determines Malloy ally Rev. Kenneth Moales overcharged state by at least $75,000 for day care slots

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According to an internal audit and investigation conducted by the professional staff at the Connecticut Department of Education, Reverend Moales, Jr., along with his mother and sister, illegally or inappropriately billed the taxpayers of Connecticut for at least 75,000 in state child care subsidies for day care centers owned by the Moales family and located in buildings owned by Kenneth Moales Jr. and his church.

Moales is Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer, one of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s loudest Bridgeport supporters, and he spearheaded the failed effort to keep Paul Vallas on as the superintendent of schools in Bridgeport.

Moales’ role in the Bridgeport take-over fiasco goes back to when the Malloy administration appointed Kenneth Moales Jr. to Bridgeport’s illegal board of education, a board that was created when the state took over the Bridgeport School System.  Malloy’s action and the illegal board were eventually struck down as illegal by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

However, thanks to Moales’ close relationship with Mayor Finch, Moales got on to the democratically elected board of education as one of Finch’s Democratic endorsed candidates and went on to serve as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education during the time period this daycare billing scandal was taking place.

As Wait What? readers may recall, Kenneth Moales and his extensive property holdings have been facing foreclosure proceeding for more than a year.  Those buildings house daycare centers owned by Moales’ family.

As readers may also recall, in the summer of 2012, Moales and his family “won” a sweetheart deal for 60 of the 72 new day care slots that Bridgeport received under Governor Malloy’s state-wide “early childcare initiative.”

Although there were plenty of other providers in Bridgeport that could have utilized those new day care slots, the lucrative contract went to the two daycare centers run by Moales’ sister and mother.  Not only are those facilities located in buildings owned by Moales’ church, but the daycare centers pay rent to Moales.  The rental costs for the daycare centers have skyrocketed from $20,000 to over $100,000 in recent years.

When the Malloy initiative was announced, potential day care providers were required to guarantee that they would have the new day care slots available and filled no later than October 1, 2012.

However, according to official state documents that were recently acquired by Wait, What?, of the 1,000 new daycare spaces, as of February 1, 2013 – four months after the program began – only 950 of the 1,000 spots were being utilized.  Of the 50 unfilled slots, 40 of them were allocated to Moales.

In addition, upon further investigation, the professional staff at the State Department of Education determined that Moales’ family had actually billed the state for students who were either not part of the state funded program or may not have even existed.

As a result of their over billing the state determined that more than $75,000 had been inappropriately paid to Moales’ family.

In a particularly bizarre move, the Connecticut State Department of Education’s initial finding was appealed by Paul Vallas, not by Moales family.  The appeal came with Vallas was still running the Bridgeport School System.

On January 14, 2014, an official State Appeal Committee met and determined that the Moales family had, in fact, billed the state for services that they did not legally provide and that an amount of $75,114 had been inappropriately paid to Moales and his family.

One of the underlying issues is that while Moales and his family claimed that they had three day care sites available, only two were licensed.  The third site, which was supposed to be located in Moales primary church building, could not be licensed due to a series of problems, not the least of which being that the church itself did not have a permanent certificate of occupancy.

According to the State Department of Public Health, the third site was eventually licensed on August 15, 2013, ten months after the Moales family had said they would have the room necessary to fulfill their contract.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that while the 3rd site was approved, it remains unclear whether Moales was ever able to acquire the permanent certificate of occupancy that is necessary in order to get a day care facility license.

The full set of state documents also highlight a series of extremely troubling concerns,

  • In a July 31, 2013, months after the Moales family had already begun billing for the larger number of slots, the State Department of Education reported that, “The workflow for approving a new application still shows several pending and/or incomplete items (including the application fee, affidavit, property history form, building and zoning approvals, staff work schedule, organization chart, background checks, health consultant agreement, floor plan, outdoor play space sketch and water supply attachments/test).

Even more incredible is that the July 31, 2013 email also stated that, “A complete corrective action plan response is also outstanding from the initial inspection conducted on 2/28/13).

And what may be the most damning piece of evidence of all is that on February 25, 2013, when the Connecticut State Department of Education professional staff informed Moales’ sister that the state would be re-allocating the unused slots to another child center so that Bridgeport so that children could actually get the services they needed and deserved, Moales’ sister responded by writing,

“I forwarded this information to my boss.  He asked me to make you aware that he has spoken to Stephon Pryor and our slots are filled and confirmed.  We are simply waiting for licensing to come and inspect.  The children are CONFIRMED and Bridgeport does not have to loose the slots.”

This email,  along with a variety of others raise extraordinarily serious questions about whether Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, knowingly allowed the Moales family to have children in an unlicensed day care center and whether his lack of action allowed the Moales family to illegally or inappropriately bill the state for services that were not properly rendered.

All of these materials will be turned over to the State Auditors and other appropriate officials in the hope that an independent investigation will be conducted into Kenneth Moales Jr. and his day care operations and whether top officials in the Malloy administration were engaged in any efforts to cover up or protect their Bridgeport political allay.

Check back for more on this breaking story.

The Destruction of Public Education in Bridgeport courtesy of Malloy and Mayor Bill Finch

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When it comes to the corporate education reform industry’s strategies and tactics, Bridgeport has become one of their “ground zero” targets.

Thanks to Governor Malloy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas, the Democratic establishment has presided over an ongoing effort to destroy Bridgeport’s public education system.

Their “accomplishments” have been to divert scarce resources to charter schools that refuse to take their fair share of Latinos, English Language Learners and students who require special education.

They have sought to consistently and fully implement Malloy’s inappropriate and unfair Common Core, Common Core Testing and teacher evaluation education reforms.

And they’ve refused, even to the extent of breaking the law, to provide Bridgeport’s schools with adequate resources.

For example, when Bridgeport’s school budget was $3.5 million underfunded, Governor Malloy provided Mayor Bill Finch with a forgivable loan in exchange for allowing Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to choose Bridgeport’s superintendent.

This year, when Finch refused to meet his legal obligation and provide an additional $3.2 million to meet their minimum budget obligation, Malloy committed to letting Finch off the hook.

The follow commentary piece by Bridgeport Board of Education member Howard Gardner lays out the ugly story of how Mayor Finch (and Governor Malloy) are failing the children, parents, teachers and citizens of Bridgeport.

The piece is entitled, “Where is the “Education Mayor?” and was first published in the Connecticut Post.

The Bridgeport Board of Education is burdened with a teaching/learning infrastructure that has been purposely and systematically neglected. The current level of financial support and lack of resources within this education system is tantamount to being on life support. By the state of Connecticut Department of Education’s own admission, the Bridgeport school system is under budgeted by some $45 million. At the same time the BBOE finds itself in mortal combat with a city that consistently underfunds education.

Every city and town is obliged to bear its share of the cost of educating the children in its jurisdiction, most of the cost being borne by the state based on the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula. This is law as delineated by the state’s general statues. There is a built-in growth percentage that is added to the overall education budget each year. This is the time of year in which cities and towns across the state determine and allocate their incremental funds toward the Minimum Budget Requirement — total education cost. With the looming deadline for the finalization of next year budgets for municipalities and education boards across the state, all cities and towns have agreed to meet their MBR as determined by the State Board of Education. That is, all cities and towns with one notable exception…yes, you guessed correctly — Bridgeport.

For the past three years Mayor Finch’s administration has done everything in its power to circumnavigate the stipulated MBR. Their maneuvering has ranged from substituting in kind services in lieu of cash contribution, crying broke to the state and just flat out refusing to make payments as in the 2013-2014 school year.

We are amazed at this reticence from a mayor who once referred to himself as the “Education Mayor.” I guess “Education” in this case doesn’t mean the traditional public school system, because it is bleatingly obvious that the Mayor has little or no commitment to this institution. This is not a gratuitous comment on the part of the writer of this op-ed. I have some history with the Mayor with regard to education reform.

Five years ago I was invited to join a newly formed education reform initiative comprised of Mayor Finch, then Superintendent John Ramos, then Board of Ed chair Barbara Bellinger, other community leaders, heads of local social service organizations, and business leaders. This organization was founded on the pretext of bolstering the performance of Bridgeport public schools, but operated under a hidden agenda shared only by a clandestine subgroup comprised of Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Robert Francis, and blessed by the Mayor. Suspecting that the purported agenda was not genuine, I resigned from Bridgeport Partner for Student Success, a.k.a., Excel Bridgeport.

I walked away from BPSS over four years ago not having a complete grasp of the hidden agenda. However, subsequent chain of events have made its goals crystal clear — allow the Bridgeport Public School to be decimated, undermined; and then, point to the failure of the traditional public school system in Bridgeport. On that premise, they would build a case for alternative solutions — charter schools and corporation-based educational models. In hind sight one can deduce the various attempts to carry out this diabolical plot: the illegal takeover of an elected BBOE, the failed attempt at a charter change referendum and the hiring of Paul Vallas, public school destroyer extraordinaire.

For his efforts in balancing the BBOE’s budget, Mr. Vallas might have left here as a hero to some; however, his results came with heavy damage to the district’s teaching/learning resources.

This is the stark reality of Mr. Vallas’ legacy — the district has 72 less certified staff, including 27 in special education, than we had four years ago. Music, arts and other electives are non-existing at our high schools.

You can read Howard Gardner’s piece on the CT Post website at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/Gardner-Where-is-the-Education-Mayor-5457666.php

Corporate Education Reform Industry group starts radio campaign in support of new charter schools

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Surprise, surprise… An out-of-State charter school advocacy group has started an advertising campaign to support the Malloy administration’s decision to give Steve Perry his own privately run, but taxpayer funded, charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a reports from the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc., a charter school advocacy group based in New York, has begun a Connecticut radio advertising campaign in support of the Malloy administration’s decision to approve two new charter schools in Bridgeport.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is running the radio spots to defend Commissioner Stefan Pryor and State Board of Education’s underhanded effort to approve the proposed charter schools.  One of the charter schools will be run by the out-of-state Great Oaks charter school chain while the other is Steve Perry’s Capitol Preparatory Harbor school.

The advocacy and lobbying group is also behind the multi-million dollar advertising campaign to undermine New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to make New York City’s public schools a high priority compared to the Bloomberg administration’s approach that diverted tens of millions in public resources away from the public schools and to the city’s privately run charter schools. In New York, the Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. campaign pushed to allow privately run charter schools virtually unlimited and free access to public school space.    

The group’s New York advertising campaign is designed to help New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Like Malloy, Cuomo has received more than $100,000 in campaign donations from charter-school supporters in recent months.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. was formed by corporate education reform industry allies in 2011 and has recently expanded into Connecticut. Four of the organization’s five founding board members are Wall Street hedge fund executives.  The group also shares space in New York City with the New York chapter of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Inc.

As one would expect, the corporate education reform industry has been dumping millions of dollars into Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.

Among its biggest donors is the Walton Family Foundation (the Wal-Mart Family’s Foundation) which has given the charter school group more than $700,000 in start-up funds.  The organization has also received at least $200,000 from the Eli Broad Foundation during that same period.

Here in Connecticut, the Wal-Mart Political Action Committee gave Governor Malloy’s political operation a check for $5,000 and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad chipped in another $8,000 for Malloy.  

One of the other foundations that have given Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is none other than the Ray Dalio Family Foundation.

As Forbes Magazine explains, Ray Dalio is the “king of the rich hedge fund industry.”  Forbes adds that Dalio, “lords over the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, with about $150 billion in assets.”

Ray Dalio is the individual who was paid $2.3 billion last year.

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates is the company that Governor Dan Malloy rewarded with more than $120 million in Connecticut taxpayer funded tax breaks in return for moving Bridgewater’s “world headquarters” from Westport to Stamford.

In addition to giving money to the charter school advocacy group now running advertisements in Connecticut, Dalio’s foundation is also a major donor to Teach for America.

For public school teachers, parents and advocates it is becoming even clear is that with the 2014 gubernatorial election less than seven months away, Dannel “Dan” Malloy is using every opportunity to show his unending support for expanding charter schools at the expense of Connecticut’s public schools.

You can also read more about this story at CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/up-next-charter-group-that-battled-nyc-mayor-comes-to-ct/

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