Hartford Courant story highlights bizarre effort to privatize Clark Elementary School.

A Hartford Courant article entitled, Hartford School Board Asks Education Commissioner To ‘Impose’ Turnaround Plan reveals some of the contradictions and bizarre actions taken by the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, senior Hartford board of education officials, and corporate education reform industry advocacy groups in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant reports,

“Despite objections from the teachers’ union, the city board of education asked Tuesday night that state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor use his statutory power to impose a “turnaround” plan for Clark School that would include management by an outside group.

[…]

Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, contended that Clark teachers and parents were given inadequate information throughout the turnaround process, which she said amounted to “bullying and intimidation” in favor of Friendship.

“Unfortunately, the Hartford BOE just can’t allow the process to proceed as it should,” Johnson said.

Although senior staff in Governor Malloy’ State Department of Education have consistently denied that they had any role in pushing the effort to direct a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Courant now reports,

“The state had recommended Friendship, which operates four public schools in Baltimore in addition to its charter schools, to the turnaround committee that has been developing an improvement plan for the prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade-school on Clark Street…”

In the days leading up to last night’s Hartford Board of Education vote, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, his hand-picked board Chairman, Republican Richard Wareing, and the corporate education reform groups, Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART), Hartford Parents University and others tried to claim that the Clark School parents and community unanimously supported the move give the school to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

However, no such consensus ever existed.

In order to maintain the fantasy that the Clark School community unanimously selected Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Board of Education had to vote without allowing public input and systematically overlook information such as an email from the co-chair of the School Governance Council and member of the Clark Turnaround Committee who wrote,

“PLEASE VOTE NO TONIGHT,” adding, “our unified voice was to see other [school] models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us.”

And to make the charade complete, the Hartford Courant reported that Commissioner Pryor was up for his part of the whole scam when his spokesperson concluded,

“We’re grateful for the thoughtful dialogue and respect the local process in Hartford,” Donnelly said in a statement. “We will certainly take the views of the Hartford Board of Education, Mayor Segarra, and the Clark school governance council into account as we consider the potential paths forward.”

Thoughtful dialog?

Respect for the local process?

The truth is that State law requires that the district school turnaround process be driven by parents, teachers and the local community.

In the case of Clark Elementary School, that process was still on-going.

In fact, Clark School parents were supposed to go see schools in New York City last week and in Cincinnati this week, but those trips were suddenly cancelled.

Faced with the potential that their hand-picked private vendor would not be selected by the local community, the Mayor of Hartford, the Hartford Board of Education, corporate education reform industry advocacy groups AND the Malloy Administration conspired to concoct a strategy that effectively eliminated appropriate parent involvement.

Instead of following the law and doing the right thing, Malloy et. al. simply aborted the process and will use a no-bid contract to hand the out-of-state charter school management company a Hartford public school along with millions of dollars in state and local taxpayers’ funds.

The Clark Elementary School process has become a quintessential example of Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-public school, pro-privatization political agenda.

In this case the winner is a private out-of-state charter schools company, while the losers are the students, parents and teachers of Clark School along with the taxpayers.

You can read the Hartford Courant story here: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-clark-school-0409-20140408,0,3652613.story

UPDATED AT 7:30 PM – Malloy administration and Hartford Mayor team up to undermine American Federation of Teachers and Clark Elementary

UPDATED with Hartford Board of Education vote.

With Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra leading the way, the Hartford Board of Education voted 7 -1 (With only Working Families Party Robert Cotto Jr. voting no) to ask Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to short-circuit the legislative mandated school turnaround process and give Friendship Charter School, Inc. a no-bid contract to take over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School.

During the course of the discussion, the Hartford Board of Education chairman read letters from Clark Parents in favor of the move to give Friendship their school but failed to read letters from parents who opposed the give-a-way program.  In addition, the Board of Education dismissed the first hand reports that the so-called 10-1 vote in favor of Friendship  Charter Schools by the Clark School Governance was actually a vote in favor of having Friendship as an option but WAS NOT a vote exclusively in favor of the out-of-state charter school company.

Perhaps the single most important development at the meeting was the fact that the Mayor and administers with the City of Hartford admitted that the Malloy administration was behind the Friendship and that the city was told that Clark would lose the funds state funds if the parents, teachers and local officials did not agree to the Commissioner’s demand.

The Malloy administration’s willingness to abuse its powers and its commitment to privatizing Connecticut’s public schools apparently has no bounds.

UPDATED with email to Hartford Board of Education from Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member)

When Paul Hozler, the Executive Director of the corporate funded education reform group Achieve Hartford! wrote to two high-ranking Hartford Board of Education administrators that he was concerned that,

“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT,” 

Hozler revealed far more than he probably meant to about the strategy behind the on-going effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to an out-of-state charter school management company called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

As reported yesterday on Wait, What?, in a hastily called special Hartford Board of Education meeting scheduled for late this afternoon, Mayor Pedro Segarra and his appointed majority on the Hartford Board are expected to vote in favor of a resolution asking Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to step in and unilaterally eliminate the involvement of the parents and teachers of the Clark Elementary School.

The rush to put an end to the legally mandated school turnaround process is part of a broader effort to ensure that Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. gets a lucrative state taxpayer funded management contract to take over the Clark Elementary School.

Sources inside the State Department of Education and within the Hartford School System now confirm what internal emails had already revealed.

Prior to the weekend of March 29-30, 2014, Commissioner Pryor, his turnaround team, the Hartford school administrators and a group of corporate education reform organizations were intending to allow the Clark parents and teachers to complete the legally mandated turnaround committee process.

The privatization proponents have envisioned a process in which the steps to reach consensus about Clark School would be achieved with a site visit to New York City and Cincinnati to provide the Clark School community with an opportunity to explore other turnaround options, in addition to Friendship Charter School.

However, growing concerns about the possibility that the Hartford Federation of Teachers (HFT) and the community organization known as Hartford Rising might convince parents to choose another management model for Clark Elementary School led the supporters of privatization to a last minute change of strategy.

Starting with a meeting on Sunday evening, March 30th, the public and private funded groups promoting Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. met with a small group of Clark parents to scare them into thinking that if they did not choose Friendship Charter Schools immediately, they would lose out on the Malloy administration’s promise to allocate $1.5 million to help enhance the Clark Elementary School.

The Clark School parents were told that the site visit to New York was postponed and that Clark parents needed to attend the State Board of Education Meeting on April 2nd and speak up in favor of additional funding for Clark. 

In an interesting twist, apparently Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART) and the other groups failed to cancel the trip and a coach bus actually showed up at the Clark School to take parents to see the New York City schools, but the bus was turned away when there were no parents to go on the trip.

At the Sunday meeting, and in the days that followed, the corporate education reform groups also planned a demonstration that is set for this afternoon in which Clark Parents were told to come to the school, put on tee-shirts and march to the Board of Education meeting to demand that the Hartford Board of Education vote to ask the Commissioner to unilaterally give the management contract to Friendship Charter Schools.

The fact that the demonstration planning has been going on for days is particularly noteworthy since the notice of the Board of Education’s special meeting wasn’t even released until 5pm last night.

The coordinated effort to give Friendship Charter School a no-bid contract is not only evident in the package of internal emails but the effort has now been independently confirmed by people directly involved in the process.

And perhaps the most disturbing development in this whole, bizarre charade is that it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to undermine the Hartford Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers despite state laws that not only allow, but require, the full participation of teachers and their union in the turnaround process.

Making the situation even more disgusting, in an effort to cover-up the privatization strategy, the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the corporate education reform groups are trying to make it appear that the whole effort to close down the turnaround committee process is simply a response to “service” the Clark parents.

As part of that strategy, Mayor Pedro Segarra released a statement earlier today claiming that the vote to request Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to stop the turnaround process and simply hand pick Friendship Charter Schools is at the request of the Clark Parents.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s statement was as follows,

MAYOR SEGARRA statement on parents decision regarding turnaround plan for clark elementary school

— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—

 (April 8, 2014) Today, Mayor Segarra made the following statement regarding the proposed turnaround plan for John C. Clark Elementary School:

“It has always been my belief that when a school partners with its families and community groups, children will stay in school longer and have a better chance of success.  A critical component of a providing a quality education is making sure the parents have a voice in the school process.  Parents who are actively involved in their children’s education are helping to build a foundation for their children’s future success.  The parents at Clark Elementary School have actively engaged in discussions surrounding the reform process for the school and have made their desires clear.

“The Clark School Governance Council voted unanimously in favor of partnering with the Friendship Public Charter Schools to assist in the school’s turnaround work.  It is disappointing to see that despite this clear recommendation from the School Governance Council, the Clark Turnaround Committee failed to reach consensus on a plan that would have provided the Clark Elementary School with the resources that are needed for a successful turnaround plan.  As Mayor, I support the School Governance Council’s recommendation to partner with Friendship Public Charter Schools to undertake this important work.

“I am asking that Stefan Pryor, Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut, exercise his statutory authority and contact Friendship to formally request that they reconsider being the lead partner with Clark Elementary School.”

###

Mayor Segarra’s claim that he is “doing it for the parents” is particularly insulting since Hartford parents that have been directly involved in the process have made it clear that the purported vote in favor of Friendship Charter Schools was not intended to be a vote in favor of giving the contact to Friendship Charter Schools but only a vote that Clark parents wanted Friendship Charter Schools as one of the options on the table as they explored other potential management models.

But as we have learned over and over again, when it comes to the privatization of our public schools, the truth is a dispensable commodity for the Malloy administration.

4 P.M. UPDATE:

Earlier today, Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member sent the Board of Education the following email;

Good Afternoon Mayor Segarra and Board Members,

My name is Lakeisha McFarland I am the PTO President, SGC member and turn around team committee member at Clark school. I feel it is necessary to inform you that the SGC 10-0 vote that everyone is talking and writing about was NOT to partner with Friendship but it was to ask them to return to the table to be considered as ONE of the options for Clark.  A couple of parents are being misled to change their voices completely. Our unified voice was to see other models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us as the option we must partner with. As the PTO President I am responsible for communicating with parents and the last meeting that was held we all agreed as a parent body that more options and other models needed to be visited.  It is unfair that an organization can change the minds of a couple and pretend that this is what the majority of parents want.  Despite the couple of parents that are being misled to believe that we must pick Friendship, parents at large still stand on our original demand of seeing more options other than Friendship. It is a sad day when an organization that is hired to get the consensus of the parents and stakeholders in the Clark community are doing the opposite and trying to deliver us to Friendship on a silver platter. Parents at Clark are asking you NOT to intervene in the process of the turn around team and PLEASE don’t take our voices away.

Sincerely,

Lakeisha

NEWS FLASH: Its official – choice means Friendship Charter School or nothing

In a brazen effort to hand over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools of Washington D.C. and divert more scarce public funds to another out-of-state charter school management company, a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education has suddenly been called for tomorrow to approve a resolution “requesting” that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, use his authority to simply hand Clark Elementary over to Friendship Charter Schools without any further debate or discussion.

As reported in multiple blog posts here at Wait, What?, this extraordinary abuse of power has been playing out for the last few months.

The Clark School “turnaround” process has suddenly became a case study in how the corporate education reform industry really works.

And in this case, the concept of “school choice” has been corrupted to mean that Clark School parents, teachers and the greater community must accept Friendship Charter School as their new master or Commissioner Stefan Pryor will withhold $1.5 million that was allocated to improve the neighborhood school.

Of course, a large chunk of that “new” money will be used to pay for the “services” of Friendship Charter School.

Regardless of the political spin coming from the corporate education reformers, the truth is as follows;

When Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community were told that their school was going to be handed over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor…

The Clark parents said NO! – “We want Choices.”

And the Achievement First, Inc. proposal was defeated.

In response to this development, Commissioner Pryor, his senior staff, and high-ranking administrators for the Hartford School System decided that the new “choice” would be Friendship Charter Schools, a Washington D.C. based charter school management company.

Although the Clark parents continued to say – “We want Choices,” those in power decided “choice” is not the selection of multiple options but simply a decision of Friendship Charter School or nothing.

As internal emails, documents and first hand reports reveal, a strategy was developed by Pryor’s State Department of Education, Hartford Board of Education administrators and corporate education reform organizations to “persuade”  the Clark parents that handing their school over to Friendship was effectively their only choice.

To implement this political strategy of deception, state and city officials used a combination of public and private funds to pay for a campaign that was orchestrated and coordinated by a series of education reform groups including Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (H.A.R.T) and Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

The gory details will continue to leak out in the coming days, but the strategy reached its zenith today when these education reform groups handed out flyers instructing Clark Parents to meet late tomorrow afternoon at that Clark School, don tee-shirts and march to the Hartford Board of Education meeting to demand the Hartford Board of Education approve Friendship before the state withdraws the $1.5 million needed to help improve their school.

Gone is the discussion of providing Clark School parents with the range of choices they wanted to hear about.

Last week’s site visit to New York City that would have allowed Clark’s parents to examine other options was cancelled and will now not be rescheduled.

The group’s planned site visit to Cincinnati to look at other school options has suddenly disappeared, as well.

And the Clark School Governance Committee’s vote in favor of seeking multiple options has been “re-interpreted” as a vote for Friendship Charter School.

Check back for additional details as they become available…

But as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, the only thing that stands between them and control of another local Connecticut neighborhood school, its students and millions in taxpayer money that comes with it is the following resolution that will be taken up tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. by the Hartford Board of Education.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT: the Board hereby requests that the Commissioner exercise his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develop and impose a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark; and

BE IT THEREFORE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT: if the Commissioner exercises his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develops and imposes a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark then the Board will negotiate the financial impact of the plan with the exclusive bargaining units for Clark certified employees in accordance with Connecticut General Statute § 10-153S(c).

RECOMMENDATION That the Hartford Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to approve the resolution requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee.

You can also read more about this developing issue at the Real Hartford Blog – http://www.realhartford.org/2014/04/07/boe-to-vote-on-edu-colonialism-at-clark-school/

SURPRISE: Malloy administration’s back room deal to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to an out-of-state charter school company is back

As Wait, What? readers have known for months, the Malloy administration has been engaged in a campaign to force the City of Hartford to turn their Clark Elementary School over to a private, out-of-state private charter school chain based in Washington D.C.

Initially Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, tried to “persuade” the City of Hartford to turn Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc. the charter school chain that Pryor co-founded.

When the parents, teachers and Clark School community fought back, the Hartford Board of Education, the majority of whom are appointed by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segar, said no.

At that point, Pryor and the Malloy administration switched to Plan B.

Plan B was to force Hartford to turn the local neighborhood school over to Friendship Charter Schools of  Washington DC through a no-bid contract process.

Once again parents, teachers and the Clark School Community fought back.

But Commissioner Stefan Pryor, along with his aides, has spent that last few weeks trying to force Hartford to give up their opposition and agree to turn their school over the private charter school company.

According to sources who attended meetings about this issue, the Pryor’s group has told parents that the only way Clark Elementary School can get significantly more funds to improve their school is to allow this backroom deal to go forward.

When some community leaders complained that the Friendship Charter School chain was being forced upon them, Commissioner Pryor’s aide, Andrew Ferguson, shot back saying, “You’ve had years to do this internally.”

Ferguson’s comment is particularly repulsive and inappropriate since the Connecticut State Department of Education is well aware of the historic underfunding of Connecticut’s schools and that there is absolutely nothing preventing Pryor from investing additional funds in Clark Elementary without making the community give up control of their neighborhood school to a private out-of-state charter school company.

While the level of arrogance emanating from the Connecticut State Department of Education is shocking, the real question is who has participated in the behind the scenes effort to undermine the teachers and parents and push forward with the deal to hand Clark Elementary over to the Washington D.C.’s Friendship Charter School chain.

To date, freedom of information requests for all communication between the Malloy administration and the corporate leadership of Friendship Charter company have gone unanswered.

Therefore, an additional request will submitted today,

The new FOI request will again be made pursuant to the  Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.

The new request is a demand that the State Department of  Education turn over all written communication, memos, documents, emails and corresponding attachments that mention “Friendship Charter” and were sent to or from Commissioner Pryor, Adam Goldfarb (Pryor’s chief of staff), Morgan Barth (Pryor School Turnaround Director) or Andrew Ferguson (Pryor and Barth’s aide assigned to the Clark School Committee).

The request covers all communication created, sent or received during the period from September 1, 2013 through today, March 28, 2014.

In addition, the State Department of Education is instructed to turn over a list of all phone calls that were made by these four individuals, along with the date, time and duration of each call.  The request covers both the office and cell phones of those four previously mentioned state employees.

If the Malloy administration were serious about transparency, honesty and fairness, these materials would be immediately turned over and shared with the Clark School community prior to any  final vote on the future of Hartford’s Clark School.

Investigation needed into Malloy administration’s handling of Clark Elementary School Fiasco

Last October Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his corporate education reform industry allies teamed up with Hartford’s outgoing superintendent of schools, Christina Kishimoto, to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.

See Wait, What? articles?

Breaking News: Hartford’s Clark School Targeted for closure, will be handed over to Achievement First, Inc. (October 25, 2013)

Real Hartford Blog examines “bait and switch” with Clark School and Achievement First Inc. (October 28, 2013)

Hartford’s Clark School parents, teachers and community fight back! (October 31, 2013)

When parents, teachers and the Clark School community rose up in anger, even Governor Malloy’s close ally, Mayor Pedro Segarra, were forced to back off the backroom deal with Achievement First, Inc.

With Achievement First, Inc. off the table, Pryor and his operatives concocted Plan B.

Plan B was designed to use Pryor’s “school turnaround process” to hand control of the Clark Elementary School over to a Washington D.C. charter school chain called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.  In addition to charter schools in Washington, Friendship runs a series of charter schools in Baltimore Maryland.

Despite promising that it would be the parents, teachers and the Clark School community that they play the lead role in making any decisions about the future of Clark Elementary School, Commissioner Pryor, his school turnaround director, Morgan Barth, and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson were already working to deliver a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Multiple Freedom of Information Act requests have failed to persuade the State Department of Education to turnover email communications and documents about the early planning that occurred between Pryor’s office and Friendship Charter Schools.

However high-ranking officials within the State Department have confirmed that the Malloy administration had already “cut a deal” with Friendship Charter Schools, Inc weeks ago.

Information about the deal between Pryor and Friendship first appeared in the following Wait, What? posts,

NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (Feb. 10, 2014)

Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School  (Feb. 13, 2014)

And early this month, the Malloy administration tried to move forward with Plan B.  See Wait, What? articles,

NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again (March 6, 2014)

Malloy Administration: Clark Elementary Parents – You must accept Friendship Charter School or else (March 9, 2014)

Once again, parents, teachers and the Clark School Community have been forced to come to the defense of their local elementary school

This time, in an attempt to defuse the community’s anger, the Hartford Courant is reporting that Commissioner Pryor has announced that he will allow the community,  More Time To Draft ‘Turnaround’ Plan For Hartford’s Clark School.”  

Although Pryor and the Malloy administration have consistently denied that there was any pre-determination in favor of Friendship Charter Schools, the Courant story reveals the truth with the statement that, “State education officials [now admit that] they recommended Friendship because the group has experience working with a teacher’s union and has the organizational means to take on a school with as many challenges as Clark — and in time for the 2014-15 academic year.”

In a truly laughable moment, Pryor’s Turnaround Director, Morgan Barth was quoted in the same Courant story as saying, “This talk of, ‘it’s Friendship or bust,’ and there’s an ultimatum from the state to have Friendship … that’s not true.”

While Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson added in equally absurd quote saying, “The state can’t want it more than the local community.”

Of course, the ongoing attempt by the Malloy administration reveals just how hard it has been working to give the school away to an out-side charter management company.  In case after case Pryor’s State Department of Education has made it absolutely clear to local communities that they have had little to no choice in what would happen once Pryor’s announced their school was a target for his turnaround program

The citizens of Connecticut deserve an investigation into the Malloy administrations actions surrounding the effort to first give Clark Elementary School to Achievement First, Inc. and then to give it to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Malloy Administration: Clark Elementary Parents – You must accept Friendship Charter School or else

Parents, teachers and the community that makes up Hartford’s Clark Elementary School in Hartford are still reeling from the Malloy Administration’s threat that the Clark “Turnaround Committee” must agree to turn their local Hartford neighborhood school over to Washington D.C.’s Friendship Charter School Inc. or else they won’t get the funds necessary to improve their school.

But there is much that Clark School parents and the Clark School community have not been told.

This development comes despite a state law that requires an inclusive “turnaround” process in which parents, teachers, school officials and community members are supposed to play the primary role in deciding the future of their local school.

The Malloy Administration’s plan to force the “Clark School Turnaround Plan” to hand the day-to-day operation of the Hartford elementary school over to Friendship Public Charter School Inc. first came to light in a February 10, 2014 Wait, What? article entitled, “NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (2/10/14).

A follow up story on February 10, 2014 further explained developments.  See Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School (2/12/14).

Late last week, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor pulled the trigger in their effort to force the Clark School community to accept their new master.  Using his Turnaround Director, Morgan Barth and State Department of Education staffer, Andrew Ferguson, Clark’s parents were basically informed that they had no choice to but to agree to Pryor’s demands.  See NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again (3/6/14).

The Friendship Public Charter School chain is presently made up of six charter schools in Washington D.C. and another five “turnaround” schools that the company runs in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.

Washington D.C.’s Friendship Public Charter School company is yet another charter school management organization trying build an empire.  

Just last October, Friendship Charter School was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana trying to open a new chain of schools.

As reported by the local media in Baton Rouge last October, “Nine charter school groups planning to open schools in Baton Rouge introduced themselves Monday night to about 125 people who gathered at Living Faith Christian Center…..” Friendship Public Charter School from Washington, D.C. was one of those schools giving a presentation.

According to their application, ”Friendship Louisiana – a Louisiana non-profit corporation – seeks to hire Friendship Public Charter School Inc. to start, manage, and grow a network of charter schools that implements its proven charter school and turnaround models to improve dramatically outcomes for Louisiana students.”

But Baton Rouge isn’t Friendship Charter Schools’ only target.  Their Louisiana application adds, “Friendship proposes to operate a network of charter schools in Louisiana that includes three schools in Shreveport ultimately serving grades pre K-12, and one school in Baton Rouge serving grades 6-12.”

In an apparent effort to impress the Louisiana powers that be, in their application, Friendship Charter Schools Inc. brags that they have, “been invited by school districts in states including Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Carolina to operate turnaround schools, and [have] declined.”

The application goes on to read, “Friendship is interested in Louisiana because it has created the conditions for reform that make it conducive to turnaround success.”

So let’s get this right…Friendship Charter Schools turned down “invitations” to open schools in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and North Carolina  because those states didn’t have “conditions for reform” that made “it conducive to turnaround success,” and at yet the Malloy administration, out of the blue, wants to give them a school in Connecticut?

There is something very, very wrong with this picture.

And what happened in Louisiana?

On October 31, 2013, the Advocate Newspaper of Baton Rouge reported,

“Capitol High and Istrouma High will merge on the Capitol High campus, with Friendship Public Charter Schools, of Washington, D.C., in charge.”

[…]

Donald Hense, chairman of Friendship, donned a dark blue ballcap with an F on it, a reference to the group’s flagship high school.

He rattled off positive statistics connected with that school and the group’s other high school in the nation’s capital.

“Ninety-five percent of our students graduate in four years,” he said. “One hundred percent go on to college.”  (A claim that sounds familiar to those who have been following the Steve Perry and Capital Prep Magnet School farce).

At the press conference, Louisiana’s Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard, who holds the position Paul Vallas held for six years called the development, “a positive step forward.”

And back here in Connecticut, Stefan Pryor’s operation claims that they are choosing Friendship Public Charter School, Inc., regardless of the opinion of Clark School’s parents, because the Friendship Public Charter chain will provide the personal attention that Clark Elementary School needs.

NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain

Sources close to Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor report that the Charter School loving Commissioner of Education has committed to give Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools Inc., a major charter school management company based in Washington, D.C.

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education recently announced that he has “accepted” Hartford’s Clark Elementary School into the Connecticut State Department of Education’s “Commissioner’s Network.”

Although the law requires an inclusive “turnaround” process that is supposed to include local parents, teachers, school officials and community members, multiple sources, including one close to Stefan Pryor, report that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education has already decided that the final “Clark School Turnaround Plan” MUST be to hand the day-to-day operation of the Hartford elementary school over to Friendship Public Charter School Inc.

The Friendship Public Charter School chain is made up of six charter schools in Washington D.C. and another four schools that the company runs in Baltimore, Maryland.

Donald Hense, who is the Founder and Chairman of Friendship Public Charter Schools Inc., is a long time charter school advocate.  In 2011, Hense was an inductee into “the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame” at the annual meeting of the National Charter Schools Conference.

According to Internal Revenue Service reports filed in 2011, Friendship Charter School Inc. provided Hense with a compensation package of approximately $300,000.

In that year, the company had revenues of $71 million and expenditures of about $67 million.  Of its revenue, $60 million came from tuition fees paid by the city governments of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland and another $9 million came from other government grants.

Like many charter school management companies, the Friendship Charter Schools Board of Directors is made up of corporate education reform industry executives and their allies.

The Friendship Charter School Inc. Board includes Gregory Prince (President, Educational Services Associates), Carol Thompson Cole (President & CEO, Venture Philanthropy Partners), Deborah McGriff (Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund), Chris Whittle  (an education entrepreneur who founded the ill-fated Edison Schools and now serves as the chief executive officer of Avenues: The World School, “a planned international system of independent pre-K-12 schools) and Kevin P. Chavous (CEO of the Chavous Group, an education reform consulting  and public relations group).

The President of Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) not only serves on the Board of Friendship Schools, but the education reform investment company has also played a major role in funding Friendship Schools and its aggressive expansion plans.  Venture Philanthropy Partners also invests in a variety of other charter school management companies including KIPP.  KIPP owns and operates a chain of 141 charter schools in 20 states.

Friendship Schools is also closely associated with the NewSchools Venture Fund, a corporate funded financial investment company that is “committed to transforming public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs.”

In the “small world” department, one the NewSchools Venture Fund Board members includes none-other-than Jonathan Sackler, who played a vital role in the creation of Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Achievement First charter school management company and is responsible for the creation of ConnCAN and 50 CAN.  Sackler and his wife are two of Governor Malloy’s biggest campaign contributors having donated the maximum allowable amount of $10,000 each.

Assuming Malloy’s Commissioner of Education is successful in forcing Hartford to turn Clark Elementary School over to the Friendship Public Charter School Inc.; Hartford will be home to yet another “no excuses” school that is widely known for its harsh disciplinary policies.

One of the Friendship Public Charter Schools made the news in 2012 when a Washington D.C. television station ran the story entitled,  “Teacher at Friendship Public Charter School Accused of Taping Visually Impaired Student To Chair; Teacher has been placed on administrative leave.”

According to the media report;

“A teacher at Friendship Public Charter School has been placed on administrative leave after allegedly taping a nine-year-old visually impaired student to a chair.

The alleged incident happened Wednesday afternoon during an after school tutoring program at the Friendship Blow Pierce Junior Academy Campus in Northeast.

Christian Washington, a fourth grade student, says he asked his teacher if he could get up, and when he did for a second time, the teacher first threatened to tape him to his chair, and then did. Washington says he was wrapped with the tape several times around his chest and his legs. He says he was embarrassed.

“She was laughing. Everybody in the class was laughing at me,” Washington says…

No doubt about it, the Malloy/Pryor “we know best” strategy of privatization of our public schools continues to be the cornerstone of Malloy’s education reform policies.