The Biggest Winner in Malloy’s Budget – Charter Schools

Let’s hear it for turning over our scarce public funds to the Corporate Education Reform Industry!

While Governor Dannel Malloy proposes to cut funding for Connecticut’s public schools, he miraculously finds that extra money needed to open four new privately-owned, but taxpayer-funded, charter schools.

Steve Perry, the out-going principal of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford has undoubtedly popped the champagne cork and is drooling at the prospect of collecting more than $10 million in “management fees” over the next five years when his private company opens Capital Prep Harbor Charter School in Bridgeport.

And the out-of-state company that plans to replicate its Bronx based charter school in Stamford must be equally as happy.

True the Bridgeport and Stamford Boards of Education had strongly opposed both charter schools and asked the Malloy administration NOT to approve them, but the “local control is crap” governor went ahead and funded the two charter schools anyway.

Malloy is so incredibly committed to the privatization of Connecticut’s public schools that he even added funding for two more charter schools despite the fact that there are no additional, approved charter school proposals even in the pipeline.

In total Malloy is proposing to add nearly 2,000 more seats for the charter school industry in Connecticut….more seats despite the fact that charter schools remain completely unaccountable for the way they use or misuse their public funds.

And as for Malloy’s budget speech covering up the biggest cuts to public education in history, Malloy said,

“We must maintain our commitment to funding public education. While other states may choose to balance their budgets on the backs of public schools, Connecticut will not,” Malloy told legislators during his budget address. “I will not sign a budget that is balanced on the backs of our towns or our public schools.”

George Orwell and Franz Kafka would be proud!

[Of course, since the Common Core frowns on so-called fiction, our children won’t even be learning about how books like 1984 and The Trial foretold the coming of the political environment that is sweeping across our nation.]

Mayor Finch shifts to Reverend Moales in Bridgeport Special State Senate Election

Although the Bridgeport political operation connected with Governor Malloy and Mayor Bill Finch orchestrated the nomination of State Representative Richard DeJesus to run in the February 24th Special Election for the vacant State Senate seat in Bridgeport, the Mayor and his team are in the process of shifting sides and will now be focusing their collective efforts to elect the Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. to the Connecticut State Senate.

On Friday Mayor Bill Finch urged the nominee, Richard DeJesus, to drop out of the state Senate race.

In addition to DeJesus, who is the Democratic nominee in the race, the other major contenders are former State Senator Edwin Gomes, who is the Working Families Party candidate and former Board of Education Chairman Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. who is Finch’s former campaign treasurer.

Apparently Finch’s most recent political maneuver is due to the establishment’s growing concern that DeJesus has been damaged by the news that he owes at least $139,433 in personal property taxes and at least $35,700 in back child support.

But the Malloy/Finch operation was already covering their bets over the last few weeks, with Finch’s chief of staff and other key Finch allies providing donations to Moales so that he could qualify for a taxpayer funded campaign finance grant.

A review of Moales campaign finance report reveals that he has the full support of Connecticut’s Charter School Industry and many of the individuals and organizations that paid for the record-breaking lobbying campaign behind Malloy’s education reform agenda and Mayor Finch’s failed charter revision effort to do away with a democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.

Over the past three years, Kenneth Moales Jr. has been one of the most outspoken supporters of Malloy’s corporate educate reform efforts.  Moales was also the head cheerleader for Paul Vallas and Moales serves on the Board of Directors for Steve Perry’s proposed charter school in Bridgeport.

In fact, while the Bridgeport Board of Education was taking the unprecedented step of asking Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and State Board of Education to reject Steve Perry’s application to open a charter school in Bridgeport, saying it was contrary to educational goals of the City of Bridgeport, Moales was busy supporting the application, all while serving on Perry’s charter school board.

The notion that it is DeJesus’ financial troubles that has scared off Finch and company is rather absurd considering the far more serious financial, legal and ethical problems surrounding Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

Although Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. claims to be a millionaire, he has been fighting off a series of lawsuits since 2011 for defaulting on about $8 million in loans that he took out to build his Bridgeport Church and renovate a home owned by his mother.

In September 2012, Reverend Moales caused a car accident in New Haven that injured the driver of the other car.  At the time of the accident Moales with driving an unregistered Mercedes Benz owned by his church.

A year later, in September 2013, an arrest warrant was issued for Reverend Moales for failure to appear for a ticket he had received for speeding and driving another unregistered vehicle, this time a Cadillac Escalade which was also owned by his church.

In response to a CT Post article about the arrest, Moales took to Twitter proclaiming,

“CT POST NEEDS readers! I must stay focused, Ignore the Critics & Solve The Real Problems! We are doing a good work & WE WILL NOT COME DOWN!!!”

Moales also owes more than $10,000 in local property taxes and allegedly owes back payroll taxes to the State of Connecticut as well.

Three daycare centers owned by the Moales family and that rent space from Moales’ church was caught double-billing for state funded daycare slots last year and forced to pay back approximately $70,000 in ill-gotten gains

The Moales family daycare centers also put dozens of children in rooms that didn’t meet fire code and didn’t have the required permits including a certificate of occupancy for the building itself.

And the list goes on…

And on…

But as incredible as it seems, Kenneth Moales Jr’s pattern of financial, legal and ethical neglect haven’t stopped Connecticut’s charter school industry from funding his campaign…A campaign that apparently now has the support of Mayor Bill Finch and the forces loyal to Governor Malloy.

You can find out more about this developing story at the Only in Bridgeport Blog – http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/icky-for-ricky-dejesus-says-hell-resign-city-council-seat-finch-tells-him-to-drop-state-senate-bid/ and the CT Post at http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/DeJesus-has-campaign-cash-but-also-troubles-6080248.php

Forces behind effort to eliminate democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education donate to Kenneth Moales Jr.

Let’s hear it for less democracy!

Just days before the voters of Bridgeport overwhelmingly defeated Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s bizarre 2012 proposal to eliminate the democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the Mayor, millionaire charter school champion Jonathan Sackler quietly wrote a personal check for $50,000 to help pay for the final set of mailings and advertisements designed to persuade Bridgeport voters to give up their right to vote for those who oversee their City’s public schools.

Now Jonathan Sackler and many of the same pro-charter, anti-public education, pro-corporate elite are pumping money into Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.’s campaign for State Senate with the goal of helping Moales qualify for a taxpayer-funded state campaign grant that he would use to pay for his campaign in the February 24th 2015 state senate special election.

It won’t come as any surprise to those who have watched the ongoing effort to undermine and denigrate the people of Bridgeport that the very same individuals and groups that worked so hard to take away democracy in Bridgeport and keep Paul Vallas in charge of Bridgeport’s schools are now working overtime to put Moales – a Malloy/Finch ally and disgraced former chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education – into the Connecticut State Senate.

The corporate elite, education reform industry and charter school advocates know that Kenneth Moales Jr. will be a safe vote for their anti-public education agenda, even if it means hurting the people of Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler, whose pharmaceutical company makes OxyContin, is a founding member of Achievement First, Inc., the large Charter School Management Company with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Sacker is also the corporate education reform industry advocate who formed ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.  Sackler was one of the largest donors to Finch’s anti-democracy effort and now he tops the list for Moales as well.

Another key player for Moales is Andy Boas, the Chairman of the Board for Achievement First – Bridgeport, a member of the ConnCAN Board of Directors and the founder of The Charter Oak Challenge Foundation.  In 2012 Boa was also one of the largest contributors to Finch’s campaign to do away with an elected school board in Bridgeport.

And now Boas and his wife, like Sacker and his wife, have both donated the maximum amount to Moales’ campaign.

In total, more than half a dozen of Moales’ largest campaign contributions have come from members of the Achievement First, Inc. or ConnCAN Boards of Directors.

Yet another major player in Finch’s failed charter revision effort was Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform group that lobbied for the illegal state takeover of Bridgeport’s schools and then dumped more than $101,000 to support of Finch’s charter revision effort to do away with a democratically elected board of education.  Excel Bridgeport’s founder, Megan Lowney, who is also one of Malloy’s political appointees, recently gave Moales the maximum donation allowed under law.

Others who helped pay for Finch’s failed anti-democracy campaign and are now stepping up with donations for Moales’ campaign include;

Paul Vallas and his wife (now re-located back to Illinois)

Robert Trefrey

Trefrey is the former President/CEO of Bridgeport Hospital.  Trefrey chaired the illegal board that was handed control of Bridgeport’s schools by Governor Malloy’s administration.  When the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Malloy’s attempt to take over the Bridgeport Schools was illegal, Malloy appointed Trefrey to the State Board of Education’s Committee that oversees the state’s technical high schools.  Bridgeport Hospital gave Finch’s charter revision campaign the maximum allowable donation, even at a time it was laying off staff.  Trefrey has not given Moales the maximum allowable contribution.

Jeremiah Grace

Grace is the Connecticut State Director of the Northeast Charter School Network.  The organization not only lobbies for more charter schools but helps private charter school management companies develop applications to get public funds.

Lee Bollert

Bollert was an education advisor to Mayor Bill Finch and helped create Excel Bridgeport, Inc.

William McCullough

McCullough serves with Moales on the Board of Directors of Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school.

Kadisha Coates 

Coates is a charter school advocate, member of Families for Excellent Schools and is the newest member of the Bridgeport Board of Education. Coates and her husband are both donors to Moales.

Liz Torres

Torres is a member of the Great Oaks Charter School Board of Directors.

Joshua Thompson

Thompson is the former Finch aide and Vallas assistant who posted on his on-line resume that he was the Deputy Mayor for Education in Bridgeport, even though he was no such thing. Thomson is now an executive New Leaders Fund, a corporate education reform advocacy group in New York City.  Brandon Clark, who ran on the Finch slate for Board of Education with Moales in 2013 but lost, also works with the New Leaders Fund with Thompson and also recently donated to Moales’ campaign.

Other Moales donors include a number of employees, lobbyists and consultants associated with ConnCAN, Achievement First, Inc. and other charter schools organizations in Hartford, New Haven and out-of state.

In order to get the full taxpayer funded grant of Moales has filed the paperwork to get a state taxpayer funded grant.  In order to get the money he must raise a total of $11,250, of which 225 must come from people living in Bridgeport or Stratford.  Depending on the number of signatures collected, Moales could receive a public grant of up to $71,000

Although Moales submitted the paperwork to get a grant last Friday, a review of his public financing report reveals a variety of problems and suspicious donations that could prevent him from qualifying for the public funding.

Note:  A special thanks to Maria Pereira who also researched Moales’ recent campaign finance report and provided her findings to the “Only in Bridgeport” blog.

Bridgeport’s Kenneth Moales Jr. – The man who refuses to take responsibility for his actions

The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. wants to represent Bridgeport in the Connecticut State Senate.  As a key ally of Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Moales is counting on the Democratic machine to help him get elected in the February 24, 2015 Special Election.

And Malloy, who remains committed to pushing his corporate education reform industry agenda, could certainly use another pro-charter school supporter in the State Senate.

But Kenneth Moales Jr. actions continue to speak louder than his words.

As Moales as shown over and over again, he is a man who simply refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

Not long ago, Kenneth Moales was arrested for failure to appear in court on a charge that he was driving an unregistered automobile owned by Moales’ church. (See: Kenneth H. Moales… You are wanted by the Connecticut State Police (Literally) 10/21/13, Bridgeport’s Kenneth H. Moales Jr. served with arrest warrant 10/22/13,  Kenneth Moales Jr. arrested… 10/23/13)

And now comes yet another stunning example of Moales’ inability or unwillingness to follow the law or act responsibly

In September 2012, Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. was driving one of the Mercedes Benz owned by his church along Dixwell Avenue in New Haven.  When attempting to make an illegal U-turn without signaling or giving the right of way to traffic, Moales caused a car accident.

The victim of the accident eventually filed a lawsuit (Case #NNH-CV14-6050018-S) against Moales and his church for the damage and harm that resulted from Moales’ action.

The accident report produced by the New Have police department placed the blame squarely on Moales noting;

“Upon investigation I found operator #1 [Kenneth Moales Jr.] at fault for the accident.  He was given a verbal warning for 14-243(e), Failure of driver making a left turn to grant rights to way to oncoming traffic, 14-12a Operating an unregistered motor vehicle.” (Police Case # 12-47695)

But rather than face up to his responsibility for causing the accident, the Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. tried lamely to have the lawsuit dismissed by claiming that he was not properly served with the writ, summons and complaint because it was sent to his mother’s house and not his.

In his sworn affidavit signed on November 11, 2014, Kenneth Moales Jr. claimed that he was “not personally served with a write, summons or complaint.”   With that claim in hand, his lawyer moved to have the case dismissed on November 21, 2014.

But the unsettling fact is that neither Moales or his attorney revealed to the Connecticut Court that the certified letters containing the information were, in fact, accepted on August 19, 2014 by someone who printed and signed the name Kenneth Moales Jr. or that the secretary of the Prayer Tabernacle Church of Love, Inc. received and signed a companion certified letter on the very same day.

Instead of stepping up and facing the charges against him, Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr actually filed a sworn statement claiming, “that that Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him as service of process was insufficient in that he was not personally served with the write, summons and complaint…”

When copies of the signed certified return forms were filed with the Court by the State Marshal, the lawsuit was allowed to go forward.

However just this week the accident victim was forced to seek an extension of time to respond to all of the interrogatories and request for production that Moales and his lawyer dumped on the accident victim once the case was allowed to proceed.

The Democratic Machine has already intervened to prevent former State Senator Ed Gomes from getting the Democratic nomination in Bridgeport’s Special Election.  The question now is how far Malloy, Finch and others will go to help put the Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. in the Connecticut State Senate.

Any support that Malloy, Finch or others, including Connecticut’s charter school and corporate education reform advocates provide to Moales will be quite a commentary.

Steve Perry’s taxpayer subsidized “Education Truth Tour”

It is Tuesday, January 13, 2015 – another day of school at Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School – but Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry, who has been skipping out on his job there about 25% of the time, is off to Carrollton, Georgia for the latest stop on the “Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour.”

Last month, it was another school day, and the speech was in Buffalo, New York.

Next week it is week day speeches in Radford, Virginia and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The week after that it is Indianapolis.

According to information posted by his publicist, the “Dr. Steve Perry “Education Truth Tour” will take him to twenty four cities in the coming months, almost all the speeches taking place on days when he is supposed to be running a public school in Hartford.

But despite the employment policies and procedures that must be followed by all the other employees of the Hartford School System, Perry has been gallivanting around the country while collecting a paycheck or, at the very least, collecting his pay by cashing in on vacation days, all of which has been signed off by the Hartford superintendent’s office and approved, at least by default, by the leadership of the Hartford Board of Education who have chosen to look the other way.

So who is running the operation back at Capital Prep while Perry is out collecting speaking fees on what are supposed to be work days paid for by the people of Hartford and Connecticut?

According to the charter school applications that Perry and his private charter school management company submitted to open charter schools in Bridgeport and New York City last year, Perry’s Capital Prep “management” team of administrators and teachers are not only running the day-to-day operations at Hartford’s public school, but they have been playing an in integral role in the development of Steve Perry’s private charter school management company, where they helped developed the charter school applications and will be managing the two newly approved charter schools.

As for this charade, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education approved Perry’s proposal for Bridgeport even though there is no funding in Connecticut’s state budget for another charter school. Perry’s charter application in New York was approved by the New York Board of Regents, despite the fact that the concepts, materials, programs, policies and operations that Perry says he will be using at these news charter schools were developed in the course of the work performed by the Hartford Board of Education employees making the information the property of the Hartford Board and Hartford’s taxpayers and most definitely not the property of Steve Perry and his team.

But with the “green light” from Governor Malloy’s administration and the New York Board of Regents, the two new charter schools will mean that Perry and his private company will be collecting  approximately $25 million in management fees over the next five years.

And how have the Hartford Superintendent and the Hartford Board of Education leadership handled this entire mess?

Without even a public meeting or a vote of the Hartford Board of Education, the Hartford Superintendent announced that Perry’s privately run, but publicly funded charter schools will be “sister-schools” with Hartford Capital Prep Magnet School.

In fact, it wasn’t even Hartford’s Superintendent who “announced” the deal, it was Perry himself who told the Capital Prep parents that he and Hartford’ Superintendent had developed a plan that, “will establish ‘sister schools’ between Capital Prep and our new schools,” and that Perry himself would be playing a primary role in the selection of Capital Prep Magnet School’s new principal

See Steve Perry announces Capital Prep will have “sister status” with his privately owned charter schools (12/12/14) and Steve Perry Claims Victory – Tweeting – “Not leaving, just expanding.” (12/15/14)

While it remains unclear just what the Hartford Superintendent actually committed taxpayers to fund, Perry explained that his strategy, “will ensure that students, parents and staff from each of the schools can collaborate for the betterment of all children. Together we will create the professional learning community that so many of us wanted.”

According to Steve Perry’s New York City charter school application he has committed that the Assistant Principal at Capital Prep would become the new COO of his private school management company and that at least  seven other Capital Prep administrators and teachers are founding members of this charter school chain and will provide the administrative and academic support for the new charters schools in New York and Bridgeport.

Obviously one of the most critical questions that remains unanswered is whether the “special deal” between Perry and the Hartford Superintendent is nothing short of an inappropriate, and perhaps an illegal, mechanism to keep the people who will be on Perry’s charter school management staff on the Hartford payroll, saving Perry’s private company millions of dollars in salary and compensation costs.

The agreements associated with the two new charter schools allow Perry to collect management fees of up to ten percent of the total school budgets each year.  If Hartford is going to pay for the lion’s share of the individuals working for Perry’s private charter school management company, it certainly leaves a lot more of the $25 million in management fees for Perry to use for himself or as he sees fit.

And meanwhile, what exactly is the message of the “Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour”?

According to an article published in Urban Image Magazine about Perry’s performance in Buffalo, “During Dr. Perry’s speech in Buffalo, he informed us with his witty charm and humor, there are black people in Hartford!  Who knew!”

As for Perry’s extraordinary record of achievement, the article noted that, “To add the icing on the cake, since its first graduating class in 2006, Capital Preparatory Magnet School has sent 100 percent of its first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges.”   [A statement that, like much of what Perry says, is nothing short of a lie].

And the Urban Image Magazine reporter added that Perry told the audience that they should “Shut down all the Buffalo ‘raggedy” schools!’”

She also explained that, “He went on to say our kids can learn to play football by an uncertified coach with just a whistle and learn how to coordinate complex moves on a field, but they cannot read!  What is wrong with this picture?  Dr. Perry stated our kids are not dumb!  The fact of the matter is teachers are not taking the time to teach our children…Dr. Perry believes teaching is not a job, it’s a calling!  He stated some teachers are not meant to teach or cut out for the job.  Some of the same teachers you had when you were growing up, were no good back then and they are still teaching and they are still no good now Dr. Perry said!”

The real truth is Perry is making big bucks, bashing teachers, spewing hate speech about teacher unions and calling public education advocates, such as Diane Ravitch, racists.

And while it is bad enough that Perry collects tens of thousands of dollars traveling around the country selling his snake oil, it is even worse that he is doing it while serving as a full-time employee for the City of Hartford where he is supposed to be running one of the City’s public schools.

Perry appears to believe that he plays by a different set of rules and, to be honest, he has ample evidence to prove this is indeed the case.

According to state policy, children who miss more than 10 percent of school are deemed to have “excessive absences,” and labeled truants, and if a series of required steps do not correct the student’s truancy rates, the Department of Children and Families is called in.

But when Perry misses two or three times the number of days that would define him as a chronic truant, the Hartford School Board fails to act and the Office of the Hartford Superintendent of Schools continues to sign off on Perry’s schedule, allowing him to collect his salary despite missing massive amounts of work.

Now Perry and his private company have been granted two lucrative “charters,” both of them to be paid using tens of millions in public funds, even though Perry’s school has consistently failed to educate its fair share of Latinos, those with English Language challenges and those with special education needs.

Topping it all off is some bizarre deal that Perry, his private company and the Hartford Board of Education have developed that appears to require that the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut will continue to subsidize what is already Perry’s massive money-making scheme.

Oh, and of course, while all of this plays itself out, the “Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour” continues to take Perry away from his sworn duties at Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School.

The Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour
The Dr. Steve Perry Education Truth Tour from Perry’s website

 

CT Post Editorial: A long-overdue step on charters

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)

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?

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

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

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.