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/

Malloy’s plan to privatize public education charges forward today

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(aka) Is Newark’s Great Oaks Charter School coming to Bridgeport?

At today’s State Board of Education meeting, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s appointees will vote to re-commit Connecticut to the Common Core and then vote to divert scarce public funds to new charter schools in Connecticut.

As previously reported, new charter school applications up for a vote by the State Board of Education includes,

(1) Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor School (Bridgeport),

(2) Jumoke Academy Michael Sharpe’s Booker T. Washington Academy (New Haven),

(3) The Bronx/Stamford Charter School for Excellence (Stamford) and

(4) Newark’s Great Oaks Charter School (Bridgeport).

One of the leading contenders in the effort to grab Connecticut taxpayer dollars is the Newark, New Jersey based charter school chain that proposes to open the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Yes… Newark is where Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, worked before coming to Connecticut.

Pryor’s Chief of Staff, Adam Goldfarb, also came from Newark and Goldfarb still sits on the board of directors of a New Jersey charter school company.

Initially the Great Oaks Charter School company proposed that they would be ready to open a charter school in Bridgeport in time for the 2015/2016 school year.

But in a sure sign that the fix is in, just last week, the Great Oaks Charter School quietly “amended” their application claiming they would now be ready to open this coming September.

The change appears to be part of a broader strategy by the Malloy administration to approve some charter schools for this coming year and then return after the election to approve other applications when fewer parents, teachers and public school advocates will be paying attention.

Connecticut’s Latino community should be especially concerned and insulted by what appears to be the Malloy Administration’s maneuver to give the Newark, New Jersey charter school company a school in Bridgeport.

The company’s school in Newark does not serve any English Language learners, but the application arrogantly claims that they are ready and able to serve Bridgeport’s diverse student population in which at least one in four students need English Language or bi-lingual programs.

In addition, the Great Oaks Charter School is yet another example of one of these “no-excuses” institutions where excessive discipline is used to pummel children into submission or force them to transfer back into the local public school system.

While this type of school would never be allowed to open in one of Connecticut’s suburban communities, the no-excuse model has become a favorite among urban-based charter school operators.

According to records from New Jersey, Great Oaks Charter School suspended more than one-third of its students one or more times last year.

Furthermore, while claiming that their focus will be on “college readiness,” the records from New Jersey reveal that Great Oaks ranked at the absolute bottom of the list on that goal when compared to other schools in New Jersey.

As with Steve Perry’s proposal to open a charter school in Bridgeport, the Great Oaks Charter School proposal has the strong support of Mayor Bill Finch, Governor Malloy’s key ally in Bridgeport.

Finch even submitted a letter with the Great Oaks Charter School application stating that the City of Bridgeport would pay 50% of the Great Oak’s Charter School lease costs for the first 5 years.

The cost to taxpayers for Finch’s gift to the charter school company would be $477,000.

While Finch promises another subsidy to this out-of-state charter school company, Connecticut taxpayers were required to come up with a $3.5 million “forgivable” loan to balance Bridgeport’s school budget last year and the Malloy administration has already committed to filling Bridgeport’s $3.3 million school budget shortfall this year.

As the saying goes, “you just can’t make this stuff up!”

You can read the super, amazing, fantastic, wonderful, incredible Great Oaks Charter school application here:  http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/public_hearings/great_oaks_app.pdf

More crazy sh*t Capital Prep Steve Perry has said

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Steve Perry is the principal of a public school in Hartford, Connecticut.  For that job, the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut pay Perry close to $200,000 in salary, benefits and retirement credits.

But Steve Perry also has a lucrative speaking business that means he is absent from his job about 20 percent of the school year.

Perry has also set up his own private charter school management company and with eight of his fellow Capital Prep administrators and teachers Perry has submitted a proposal to open a charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Regardless of what happens with that pending application, Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry will always be known for his offensive Tweet of November 21, 2013.

After the Hartford Board of Education rejected Steve Perry’s request to transfer Capital Prep Magnet School and another Hartford Elementary school over to his private company, Perry Tweeted,

Dr. Steve Perry‏@DrStevePerry
“The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.”

Strap up is slang for putting on a concealed pistol and “there will be head injuries” doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination.

If a student posted that threat, they’d be arrested, suspended and probably prohibited from ever returning to a public school.

If a teacher said that, they be fired and papers filed to have their certification revoked by the State Board of Education.

But Steve Perry said it…  And neither Christina Kishimoto nor the Hartford Board of Education took any disciplinary action at all.

But that was hardly the only time Steve Perry has used his Twitter account to make threats or say inappropriate things while on the job.

In fact, Perry has spent hundreds of hours Tweeting when he should have been working.  And the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut were left picking up the tab for that time.

Whether on Twitter, in speeches, interviews or in writing, Capital Prep’s Steve Perry has said some pretty crazy stuff.

In an April 2013 speech in Minnesota, when talking about teachers unions Perry said “we need to call out the roaches.”

Perry also used the speech to blame teachers for the “literal death” of children.  [This coming from a Connecticut school administrator 120 days after school administrators and teachers gave their lives in a desperate attempt to save children at Sandy Hook Elementary School].

But outrageous and disgusting rhetoric has been Steve Perry’s consistent forte.

Here are just a few of quotes and comments,

“Enough is a damn ‘nuf…  Drag sorry principals and teachers out into the street.  Kick open the doors in our communities and collar lazy parents.  Line ‘em all up on Main Street, snatch their pants down and show the entire world the ass that they have given our kids to kiss.”  (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

“The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) ain’t liberal and they damn sure aren’t progressive.  Their drab played out policies are more conservative than the National Rifle Association.  The AFT and the NEA make the NRA look like a San Francisco gay pride parade.”  (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools).

“If you think about it, being a teacher is one of the most stable jobs you can find…Over 95 percent of all Connecticut’s tenured teachers kept their jobs this year, so one would think 95 percent of our students would be…When their children’s performance suffer, they do not [suffer].”  (Perry interview, Hartford Advocate 2010)

“Dictatorial teachers’ unions despise Steve Perry.  So do lazy teachers.  So do entrenched, unimaginative school boards.”  (Cover Flap, Perry’s book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“Teaching kids is stressful, and we don’t need any punks.”  (Perry’s Book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“We are looking for attractive, smart, interesting people.  Yes, I said attractive.  Why?  Because attractive, smart, and interesting people sell kids everything—from breakfast cereal to Xbox games.  That may sound cynical, but it’s the truth.  Why should we expect anything different when trying to sell children education?”  (Perry’s Book, “Push Has Come to Shove”)

“The leaders of our teachers’ unions have ruined public schools.  They are the ones who created the school calendar that is too short and a six-and-a-half-hour school day…” (Perry’s book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“Teachers’ unions are not the only professional parasites feasting on our public schools.  Add the unions representing principals, secretaries, custodians, security officers, and paraprofessionals and you’ll begin to see why our schools don’t work…Their working conditions are awesome.  Our schools are failing.”  (Perry’s book, “Push Has Come to Shove”).

“Yet the union leadership often claims that parents want neighborhood schools.  Lie.  Maybe the teacher that live (sic) in nice neighborhoods want them, but Black people that live in the hood want out of their neighborhood schools in a hurry.” (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

“Let’s get it straight: schools are failing because of the people who work in them, not because of parents like you.  The truth is that one factor—teacher effectiveness—has the greatest impact on student performance.”  (Perry’s book, Push Has Come to Shove”).

“[On Capital Prep’s community…]  We’ve built a bold bad ass (sic?) band of brothers and sisters of all hues who share a sir name and it is Love.” (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

“We are one of the nation’s most successful schools because we don’t whine that the difference our kids.” (Perry’s book, “Raggedy Schools”).

His communication style on Twitter is equally bizarre,

Perry has also used his Twitter account to call the Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, a racist on at least 49 occasions.)

Perry recently Tweeted, “Oh yeah, by the way CPrep started w 55 freshmen 4 yrs ago and will graduate 53, 100% of whom have acceptance letters to 4 year colleges.”

The statement is a bald face lie.  Perry has been losing 10-30% of his students over the years.  This year’s “graduating class” is down at least 10% from the 9th grade.  Others have transferred into his school which explains his claim that there are 53 graduating from Capital Prep this year.  However, Capital Prep’s dropout or push out rate is significant.

And finally, like most bullies, Steve Perry is not only arrogant and abusive but thin skinned.  In response to a Wait, What? blog post and some criticism, Perry went on a Twitter rampage one day Tweeting,

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
Be the person worth talking about not the clown talking about other ppl.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
Think about it, if you’re the topic in a room that you’ll never visit, what does that say about the room? Be bold & don’t look back.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
If your greatest contribution is the criticism of others, your life is w/o value and you will deep the poison fruit you’ve sewn.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
The only person who has to get you is you. You’ve got to like you the most. If you dig you, who gives a damn what others think?

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
When they’re counting what’s going in your pocket, they clearly ain’t putting nothing in theirs. Man, their life must really suck.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
They only ppl worrying about what you’ve got do have anything of their own. Feel bad for them, their life sucks.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
Don’t EVER let anybody make you feel bad for being successful. The fact that they’re not is THEIR problem, not yours. Let THEM live w it.

Dr. Steve Perry ‏@DrStevePerry
We have shined the lights on those who have been responsible for forcing kids to go to failed schools & my God are they desperate to stop us

The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government (Part II)

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Last week, there was a Wait, What? blog post was entitled, “The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government.”

The blog post was an effort to highlight another “MUST READ” commentary piece that fellow public education advocate and blogger, Sarah Darer Littman wrote for the opinion section of CT Newsjunkie.  Her piece was an explosive investigation into environmental justice, racism, political corruption and how many policy decisions are made in Connecticut.

But it turns out that what followed the publication of Sarah Darer Littman’s piece was even more telling when it comes to the state of the state of Connecticut politics, and the political elite’s dedication to misleading the public.

By reading Littman’s commentary piece and Mayor Bill Finch’s response to that piece, we get a first-hand view of the arrogance, greed and entitlement that permeates government today.

Start with Sarah Darer Littman’s column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption.”   Then read Mayor Bill Finch’s response which is entitled “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a ‘Good’ Op-Ed.”

As noted in the previous Wait, What? post, the actual issue relates to a complex deal in which Bridgeport’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

While the actual cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, the story is really about power politics and how public relations and rhetoric have become more important to politicians than substance.

In this case, Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents, as well as Connecticut taxpayers, are nothing but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.

But the truly important aspect of the debate is the way Mayor Finch responded to the concerns raised in Littman’s column.

Again, start with Sarah Darer Littman’s “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption” and then read Mayor Bill Finch’s, “Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way of a ‘Good’ Op-Ed.”

The irony in the title of Finch’s commentary piece is reason enough to read it beginning to end.

The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government

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As measured by the number of college graduates Connecticut is among the most educated states in the nation.  As measured by per capital income Connecticut is wealthiest state in country, and if we were our own country we’d be one of the wealthiest and best educated countries in the world.

And yet there is a sickness that is increasingly evident in Connecticut politics.  It takes the form of elected and appointed officials who display a level of arrogance, greed, entitlement, and what appears to be an growing level of outright corruption…in both political parties.

In Sarah Darer Littman’s latest MUST READ column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruptionin this weekend’s CT Newsjunkie, Sarah Darer Littman shines the bright light of truth on a complex deal in which Bridgeport ’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

By the time their effort is over, the cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, and that doesn’t even begin to count the cost to Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents who are but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.

Sarah Darer Littman introduces her piece with the following,

If the window of government transparency in Connecticut has become foggy lately, in Bridgeport it’s turned into a funhouse mirror.

The latest to come from Mayor Bill Finch’s Carnival of Corruption was a vote Thursday evening to proceed with phase one of a deal to build a new Harding High School on 17.2 acres of a 78-acre brownfield site on Boston Avenue, currently owned by General Electric. This would enable Finch and his allies to sell the current Harding High site to Bridgeport Hospital.

According to federal law, a brownfield site refers to “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

The aforementioned brownfield site is, according to a piece in the CT Post, “contaminated with lead, arsenic, petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile compounds.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers helpful information about School Siting Guidelines, and why they are so important:

“Children, particularly younger children, are uniquely at risk from environmental hazards. They eat, drink and breathe more in proportion to their body size than adults. In addition, environmental contaminants may affect children disproportionately because their immune, respiratory and other systems are not fully developed, and their growing organs are more easily harmed. This means they are more at risk for exposure to harmful chemicals found outside where they play and in the environment where they spend most of their time — school and home.”

As might be expected, parents and those representing the community have concerns — especially since most of the process for this deal (like so much of what goes on in Bridgeport) has taken place behind closed doors. Indeed, in the minutes from the Bridgeport School Building Committee meeting on January 3, 2013, Finch Deputy Chief of Staff Ruben Felipe reports that GE asked the administration to keep their conversations confidential. Thus both the sunlight and the community were kept out. Helping to keep things under wraps was the fact that the School Building Committee failed to file their statutory notices with the town clerk’s office until February 2014, evidenced by this email from Frances Ortiz, assistant City Clerk.

There’s been some gob smacking chicanery involved, because, let’s face it, this wouldn’t be Bridgeport if there weren’t.

A petition to the City of Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission was filed in the name of the City of Bridgeport Board of Education (File 13-74). It was signed on Dec. 3, 2013, by John Eberle of Stantec Consulting Services and on Dec. 18, 2013, by Marian Whiteman, executive counsel for Transactions & Brownfields at General Electric.

On Jan. 13, 2014, Sauda Baraka, chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education (in whose name the Planning Petition was apparently being made) wrote to Melville T. Riley, Jr, the acting chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, asking that the item not go forward with a public hearing for the application because the education board hadn’t voted to approve a site plan nor a special permit concerning that property. In what is a reflection of the incredibly sad state of affairs in Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport, she was forced to ask the Planning Commission for copies of any application filed on the behalf of the Board of Education. How ridiculous is it that an elected Board of Education should have to ask another city body for copies of planning applications being filed in its name?

Probably as a result of Baraka’s letter, the planning application was withdrawn from the Jan. 13 meeting.

But by Jan. 16, the Finch administration was able to work magic with fairy dust — or White Out — and Lo! The exact same application with the exact same signatures (on the original you can see the correction fluid) and now guess what? It reads “City of Bridgeport School Building Committee”!  Suggested new campaign slogan for Bill Finch: “If you can’t beat ‘em, erase them!”

And Sarah Darer Littman’s column goes on from there with some of the most disturbing elements of the story yet to come.

You can read her whole column at via the following link,

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_environmental_racism_of_bridgeports_carnival_of_corruption/?utm_source=CTNewsJunkie.com&utm_campaign=a3172ccfcf-FNF_302_Feb_21_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a493d2308d-a3172ccfcf-92882173

As you read the piece ask yourself, is this Connecticut our citizens deserve?

Steve Perry adds “therapist” to his title of “educator” and author

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Steve Perry calls himself American’s most trusted educator. 

While Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers pay him a full-time salary and benefits to serve as the principal of the Hartford School System’s Capital Prep Magnet School, Perry skips about 20% of the school days so that he can travel the country giving speeches for hire.

When Perry does show up for work he spends an inordinate amount of his time promoting his speaking business through media interviews and his obsessive use of Twitter while on public time.

Most recently, Perry has been busy pushing a plan to use his private company to open up a charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Local support for his plan comes from corporate education reform industry ally Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Finch’s campaign treasurer, Kenneth Moales.  Moales tried and failed to get his own charter school last year, but has used his position on the Bridgeport Board of Education to push the charter school agenda.

Just this past Thursday, Steve Perry was out-of-state giving a speech and holding a book signing session at Winston Salem State University.

The Thursday before Perry was the keynote speaker at a conference at Kent State University in Ohio.

For that one, Perry was introduced at an author, principal and CNN education contributor.

The description went on to say that, “Perry is the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., which has been cited by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top schools in the country. Capital Prep has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.”

But of course, that statement is patently untrue.

Capital Prep HAS NOT sent 100% of its graduates to four year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

Today Perry is northern Virginia to give the keynote address at the annual VABHMA Gala Reception.

And this time Perry’s bio has been expanded to proclaim that he is not only an educator and author, but that he is also a therapist.

The event biography leads with the following:

Dr. Steve Perry’s heart pumps passion and produces positive change. Featured in CNN’s Black in America series, Dr. Perry is the most talked about innovative educator on the scene today.

Perry is the founder and principal of what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in the country, Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. Capital Prep has sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

100% of Capital Prep’s graduates have gone to four year colleges?

Despite the fact that falsifying and padding one’s resume has downed a number of politicians over the years, some individuals apparently continue to believe that they don’t have to live by the same standards, rules and laws that apply to the rest of us.

No real financial support for public schools, but plenty more for charter schools (especially Bridgeport)

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When Dan Malloy was running for governor he pledged to make adequate funding for Connecticut’s public schools a priority.

Instead Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education corporate education reform industry initiative of any Democratic governor in the country.

Rather than use state education funds to support local schools and take some of the pressure off local taxpayers, Malloy has used scarce public funds to push his own initiatives including implementing the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing scheme and an unfair and inappropriate teacher evaluation system.

Compounding the problem has been Malloy’s devotion to diverting money to Connecticut’s charter schools.  In fact, the single largest beneficiary of Malloy’s charter school largesse has been Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

But Malloy and Pryor have been shoveling public funds to other charter school companies as well.

The charter school management company known as Jumoke Academy/FUSE has been given additional money and control of two neighborhood public schools.  The executives of Jumoke Academy have been given management control of the Milner Elementary School in Hartford and the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.  The Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE was even appointed to the Connecticut Board of Education by Governor Malloy.

Meanwhile, other charter school companies have already been approved or are seeking approval to open new schools in Connecticut.

Last month, nine new charter school applications were submitted to the State Department of Education.

Despite the inadequate funding for existing public schools and a projected $1 billion state deficit for the year following this November’s gubernatorial election, Malloy’s budget includes funding for at least two new charter schools.

A primary target for the expansion of charter schools has been Bridgeport, in part because Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is considered a strong charter school advocate.  Bridgeport already has four charter schools.

As the Connecticut Post recently reported;

“BRIDGEPORT — An outspoken Hartford magnet school principal, a Rhode Island education reform advocate and a longtime city teacher who also happens to be the mayor’s ex, all want the same thing: open the state’s next charter school here.

The three applications represent a third of nine applications received by the state to open charter schools this fall or next….”

[…]

The new plans include two schools prepared to open next fall if they receive approval — the Capital Prep Harbor School, modeled after a Hartford magnet school run by Stephen Perry and the STEAM Academy for Girls, started by Claire Mastromonaco, a fifth-grade teacher at Johnson School, who is also the ex-wife of Mayor Bill Finch.

A third contender is Great Oaks Charter School, a school spearheaded by Maryellen Butke, founding director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now.”

Charter school companies see Connecticut as a prime target for expansion because not only does the state give charter schools money for every student they take in, but the cost to transport those charter school students and the cost to provide them with special education services continues to be paid by the local school district.

The Connecticut Post article goes on to summarize the three new Bridgeport charter school proposals;

Charter School Proposal #1

“STEAM

Mastromonaco said she has always wanted to start a school for girls. A classroom teacher for 18 years, Mastromonaco also runs the Children’s Center for the Arts. Her background is in the arts, but she loves the sciences and math and said she sees too many of her female students lose confidence and “check out” by the time they reach middle school.

She said a single-gender school that focuses on science, math and the arts will help them more feel confident.

STEAM would open in the former Holy Rosary School near Washington Park with 108 pre-kindergarten through first-graders and grow to a 252 pre-K to fifth-grade school by its fifth year. The school would strive to be racially balanced, draw from the suburbs and city. Its preschool would be Montessori-based.

Christopher Finch, her son and a teacher in New York City, would serve on her governing board along with several Bridgeport educators and parents.

In a letter of support for STEAM, Bruce Ravage, director of Park City Prep, a charter school that has won permission to add a fifth grade, said Mastromonaco knows the student population well and is in a unique position to address its needs.”

Charter School Proposal #2

“Capital Prep Harbor School

Asked why he’d want to come to Bridgeport, Perry, a lightning rod for school reform issues, talks about the city’s waterfront location, proximity to New York City and its potential.

“Bridgeport has always been one of those cities you heard about,” Perry said. The charter school he would form here would be modeled after the public magnet school he has run in Hartford for nearly 10 years.

It would have a theme of social justice, a longer school day and year, require students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities, and would strive — according to the 600-page application — to send all graduates to four-year colleges.

“Running it as a charter would be different,” said Perry. “It would create the opportunity for us to be more creative. Quite frankly, there are limits within the structure of a large school system. Even when people don’t want it to, it has to be the same. That sameness presents a challenge to schools like ours.”

Something else that is different is that Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., a private management company run by Perry, would get 10 percent of the fee, $2.5 million over the first five years of the contract. Perry said that is common when charter firms run more than one school. It also remains unclear how much the school would pay for rent.

The Harbor School application said the city has dedicated space in the Bridgeport Technology and Trade Center on Barnum Avenue and the proposed budget shows no rental expenses. The city, however, doesn’t own that property.

Among supporters of the plan are Kenneth Moales Jr., a member of the city school board.”

Charter School Proposal #3

“Great Oaks

Great Oaks would be a college preparatory school geared largely toward English language learners, who make up more than 13 percent of students in the district.

The school day would be long, stretching from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., followed by after-school activities. The school year would be 200 days, compared to the normal 180 days a year.

There are already Great Oaks schools in New Jersey and New York, said Christina Grant, vice president of the Great Oaks Foundation, who acts a chief academic officer for both schools. The school would start with 100 sixth-graders and work its way up, providing two hours of individualized tutoring to students every day, according to the application.

It would also be located in the former Singer Factory on Barnum Avenue, where three other city charter schools (Bridge Academy, New Beginnings and Park City Prep) all got their start. Great Oaks would pay $10 a square foot for 6,366 square feet. It wants to open in the fall of 2015. Its management fee built into its budget would amount to $1.6 million over the five years.

One of the many letters of support for the proposal came from Meghan Lowney, executive director of the Zoom Foundation, and a behind-the-scenes player when the city school board was taken over by the state in 2011. Great Oaks’ plans, she wrote, are aligned with her efforts to rapidly improve public education opportunities for underserved children by pooling and leveraging financial, human and political capital.”

Although public hearings are required on each proposal, the decision to approve or reject a proposal rests with the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.   The charter school law severely limits the role of local boards of education.

 

 

A parent speaks out about Teach For America

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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!

Who is pushing Capital Prep Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor Charter School application?

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According to the charter school application submitted by Steve Perry’s private charter school Management Company;

 “The Capital Prep Harbor School (the “Harbor School”) is designed as a replication of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School (“Capital Prep”) in Hartford, Connecticut.  The founders of Capital Prep have developed an internationally recognized model designed to prepare children from historically disadvantaged populations to compete and ‘win’ in education.  Capital Prep has proven that all children when given the right conditions and environment not only succeed but excel in their academic as well as their social-emotional growth.”

As the Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education consider Steve Perry’s 600 page application to open a new charter school in Bridgeport, their first task will be to overlook the fact that Perry’s Hartford Prep Magnet School refuses to provide equal access to Latinos and other children who deal with English language barriers.

Perry’s Hartford school also fails to take its fair share of students who need special education services, and it is alleged that the special education students Capital Prep does enroll don’t get the services mandated in their Individual Education Plans (IEPs). There are widespread rumors that Capital Prep is being investigated as a result of its utter failure to meet federal and state special education laws.

The data on Capital Prep’s failure to provide equal access is stark and extremely disturbing;

2011-2012 Hartford School System Capital Prep Magnet School
     
Latino Students 49.7% 21.7%
     
Students not Fluent in English (ELL) 18% 3.4%
     
Students who come from homes where English is not the primary language 39.7% ?
     
Special Education Students 13.5 6.3%
     

 

In addition, the disciplinary tactics utilized at Capital Prep Magnet School have raised equally serious concerns.  Students being forced to sit at the “Table of Shame,” students being required to stand while eating lunch, students being made to state during entire academic classes and students being made to stand facing the wall for long periods of time in administrators offices are all examples of disciplinary policies that may cross into child abuse.

Perry’s charter school application reports that he and his senior staff have been working with Bridgeport officials and community leaders for months.  The application reads;

“Founding members continuously met with local officials, including Mayor Bill Finch and his Education Adviser, Joshua Thompson, as well as local community-based organizations, religious leaders and representatives from Housatonic Community College.”

So who are these Bridgeport supporters?

Listed as Governing Council Members for Perry’s new Charter School are;

Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr., Senior Pastor Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

  • As directly quoted from his resume, Moales also lists himself as CEO/Founder C.R.E.A.M. Inc. and says that in that capacity he, “Earned endorsement from Mayor, local newspaper, Democratic District leaders and Democratic Clubs in Bridgeport CT for Board of Education” and “Exhibited tireless energy, positive attitude and visionary leadership” and “Revamped entire department bringing in all new Commissioner.” 
  •  Kenneth Moales Jr. who continues to serve on the Bridgeport Board of Education is also Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer.

Reverend Carl McCluster, Senior Pastor Shiloh Baptist Church, Bridgeport

  • McCluster also lists himself as Founder, Managing Director, Senior Program office for F.R.E.E.D.O.M. Inc. a National Economic Development Consulting Firm

Reverend William McCullough, Senior Paster Russell Temple CME Church in Bridgeport.

  • McCullough also lists himself as the Founder and CEO of U-Turn Ministries, FaithCARE and Safe Streets Kids (SSK)

Teresa Wilson, Executive Director V.I.P. College Preparatory Program, Inc., Bridgeport CT.

Wilson reports that she coordinates “college tours for areas high school students” and “collaborates(s) with various school districts and school administration in selection of students to attend tour….”

Gwendolyn Brantley, ACCESS Education Services, Bridgeport, CT.

Brantley’s adds her duties are to “Administer and manage an academic enrichment program for middle and high school students.”

Meanwhile, appended to Perry’s charter school application are a series of letters of support.  They come from:

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch who writes, “As Mayor of Bridgeport, I am writing to express my full support of the proposal of by Capital Prep Harbor School to open a state charter school in fall of 2014 that will serve the children and families of Bridgeport.  I am honored by the decision of the Capital Prep team to bring their outstanding academic model to Bridgeport within the context of a top-tier high school program…”

Other letters of support are from:

State Representative Charles Clemons

Teresa Wilson writing on behalf of the VIP College Prep Program. (Note that Wilson serves on the proposed charter school’s Governing Council.)

Reverend Carl McCluster writing on behalf of Shiloh Baptist Church. (Note that McCluster serves on the proposed charter school’s Governing Council.)

Gwendolyn Brantley writing on behalf of ACCESS Education Services.  (Note that Brantley serves on the proposed charter school’s Governing Council.)

And Kenneth Jackson, founder of Kenneth Jackson’s Mentoring Services

Considering that Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, has consistently supported charter schools at the expense of public district schools and has ducked his obvious conflict of interest when it comes to his support for charter schools, it will be interesting to watch whether Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are successful in railroading this controversial and flawed charter school application through the State Board of Education.

Stay tuned…

Is Hartford forgoing its ethics policy for Capital Prep Steve Perry?

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Even a cursory review of the facts reveal that Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry is violating Hartford Board of Education policies, and potentially state laws, due to his chronic absenteeism, his inappropriate use of social media and the fact that he spends an inordinate amount of his work day promoting his profitable public speaking business.

But the most serious breach of ethics, Hartford Board of Education policies and potentially state laws arise from the charter school application that CAPITAL PREPARATORY SCHOOLS INCORPORATED recently filed with Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Department of Education.

Steve Perry’s application is to open a new charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut that would be called the Capital Prep Harbor School.

According to the documents filed with the State Department of Education, the applicant is;

 Dr. Stephen Perry, Head of Schools
Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc.
1304 Main St.
Hartford CT 06103

 

Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. is a corporation filed in the state of Connecticut.  According to the incorporation papers filed with Connecticut’s Secretary of the State, Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. was created on Feb 16, 2012 and is domiciled at 40 Middlefield Street in Middletown, Connecticut.  Steven Perry is recorded as the President of Capital Preparatory Schools Incorporated and that address is also Perry’s residence.

At the same time, according to the documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Capital Preparatory Schools Incorporated is actually located at 1304 Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut. 

But of course, 1304 Main Street in Hartford is the where Capital Preparatory Magnet School is located and Capital Preparatory Magnet School is owned and operated by the Hartford Board of Education.

So according to the Internal Revenue Service, Steve Perry is using a Hartford Board of Education school as the address for one of his private corporations.

His application to open a new charter school in Bridgeport reiterates that point since it lists the official address for the application as: Dr. Stephen Perry, Head of Schools, Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. 1304 Main St. Hartford CT 06103

The policies of the Hartford Board of Education limit outside employment for its employees.  Hartford BOE Policy # 4138 reads:

Non-School EmploymentPersonnel of the schools may receive compensation for activities outside of the compensated work time as long as these activities do not interfere with the proper discharge of their assigned duties, do not constitute a conflict of interest, or do not cause poor public relations within the community. It is expected that any outside activity should be carried on in a business-like and ethical manner.

All employees shall notify the superintendent of outside activities that may interfere with the performance of normal duties.

If an outside activity occurs during compensated work time and the superintendent permits the employee to participate, any compensation given the employee shall be remitted to the district.

Since Steve Perry is openly running a private business out of a public school, the first question for the Hartford Board of Education and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is whether Perry properly notified them that he was running his private company out of their facility and whether Kishimoto and the Board signed off on those activities.

The second question for the Hartford Board of Education and Superintendent Kishimoto is whether or not the work associated with Perry’s private company interferes “with the proper discharge” of his assigned duties.

And the third question is whether the Hartford Board of Education is being properly compensated by Perry since the policy clearly states, “If an outside activity occurs during compensated work time and the superintendent permits the employee to participate, any compensation given the employee shall be remitted to the district.”

Making the situation even more incredible is that we now learn that the Hartford Board of Education’s “Perry Problem” goes far beyond Perry. 

According to Perry’s Bridgeport charter school application, the Founding Members of the new charter school include a number of Capital Prep Magnet School administrators and teachers, all of whom are Hartford Board of Education employees;

Richard Berganski Jr. (Vice Principal)
Scott Wojnarowicz (Math teacher)
Kelly Horan (Science teacher)
Scott Kapralos (Math teacher and SPJ)
Kitsia Ferguson (Head, Lower School)
Monique Ethier (Math teacher)
Lauren Davern (History teacher and SPJ)
Lisa Loomis (English Teacher)

 

Is it possible that Superintendent Kishimoto and the Hartford Board of Education has really signed off on the fact that Perry and his entire management team are engaged in running a private business out of a public school?

And if the 600 page Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. application to form a charter school in Bridgeport wasn’t proof enough that significant work is being done through Perry’s private company, the application added,

The Northeast Charter Schools Network (NECSN) has also teamed with the founding members as a consultant on the preparation of this charter schools application.”

The Northeast Charter Schools Network is a registered lobbying entity in the state of Connecticut and NECSN and its immediate predecessor the Connecticut Charter School Network were part of the $6 million coordinated campaign to support Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative.

As the Northeast Charter Schools Network brags on their website;

“Our experienced advocacy staff understands that despite tremendous promise and performance, charter schools are under constant attack. NECSN’s team has been successful on many fronts, bringing significant victories to the charter school movement despite tough budget cycles…”

In addition the Northeast Charter Schools Network reports that, “…member schools have access to Elevate Charter Schools…Elevate provides: charterGO, a charter start program for new school applicants; charterSHIELD, an audit and compliance program featuring a continuous improvement plan that is based on an in-depth review and alignment of a school’s charter to its academic program and authorizer requirements; and, charterRENEW, a program designed to walk schools through preparation for charter renewal.”

As “Head of Schools,” for Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. Steve Perry is clearly investing significant amounts of money and time building his private company.  

As the charter school application clearly reflects, that effort includes the Vice Principal of Capital Prep and more than half a dozen other Hartford Board of Education employees.

The question now isn’t whether Steve Perry is running a private company out of a public school, the question, yet again, is whether anyone in authority will step forward to ensure the Steve Perry and is fellow operatives are forced to follow the laws, rules and policies that everyone else must follow.

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