Charter Schools, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Fuse, Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Jumoke at Milner, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor
According to the Hartford Courant’s Vanessa De La Torre, Governor Malloy joined former Hartford Mayor Thirman Milner yesterday in the library of Jumoke Academy at Milner to celebrate the success of Malloy’s “education reform” proposals.
Milner explained, “You walk in the school, you can see the difference.”
And Malloy was all too happy to take credit for the changes claiming that it was the privatization effort of his administration that accounted for the changes.
But of course, the truth is far from that.
In fact, neither Malloy nor Milner admitted that the changes aren’t due to the fact that the local elementary school was handed over, last year, to a private charter management organization but is directly attributable to the fact that the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford are finally making a real financial investment to support the school.
Malloy and Jumoke Academy’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, would have us believe that it is the $345,000 annual contract to hire the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school management company that is responsible for “turning around” the Milner School…
However, the facts reveal a very different truth;
First, it wasn’t until AFTER the Milner School was added to the “Commissioner’s Network” and turned over to Jumoke that the state added well over $1 million in additional operating funds for the school and the City of Hartford provided more than $2 million in new funds to fix up the school. (Insiders report that while some of the funds have been used for cosmetic changes, the school continues to have a fairly significant rodent issue.)
Second, despite the fact that Malloy’s education reform law required that turnaround schools maintain the same entrance requirements; Jumoke was allowed to introduce a provision that prevents students from transferring into school after October 1st. This change significantly reduces the number of more transient students coming into the school, students who often arrive with a variety of educational and language challenges during the school year.
Third, an audit conducted by the State Department of Education in December revealed that Jumoke at Milner still hadn’t filled a vital bi-lingual position and that teachers were unaware or confused about whether the school’s English language development program was based in “pushing into” the classroom or “pulling” children out of the classroom for the extra help they needed
Fourth, while Jumoke CEO Sharpe told Malloy that student attendance was up and only 15 have left Jumoke at Milner to date, Sharpe failed to admit that while the school is getting significantly more resources, the total population is down significantly since last year.
And finally, as parents at Milner know, there have been significant communication problems at Jumoke Academy at Milner including a disastrous lock-down drill in which students were marched into the gym and cafeteria rather than required to stay in their rooms behind locked doors. As one parent on the scene put it, children were told to sit on the side of the gym, “in front of the inside gym windows, in plain sight.” The drill left parents and children shaken and extremely worried about whether the Jumoke Administrators were capable of handling a real emergency.
So while Malloy and Jumoke congratulate themselves about their education reform achievements, parents in every other Hartford school would do well to remember, smaller class sizes, having a teacher and an instructional assistant in every classroom and providing more support services is not a result of Malloy’s education reform efforts but a result of Malloy, the State of Connecticut and the City of Hartford actually stepping forward and providing the resources necessary to make appropriate changes —- changes that should be being made at every Hartford School if only elected officials would address the broader issue inadequate funding for Connecticut’s schools.
You can find the Courant’s account of the meeting here: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-malloy-education-0515-20130514,0,4682765.story
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Christina Kishimoto, Hartford, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Wendy Lecker Achievement First, Christina Kishimoto, Hartford, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Wendy Lecker
Wendy Lecker, the pro-public education advocate and fellow columnist hits it out of the park; again, with a new commentary piece in Stamford Advocate entitled “The consistently wrong path to better Schools.
Improving education achievement in our major cities must be a top priority for all of Connecticut’s citizens. Access to higher quality public schools is a fundamental American right, and is even guaranteed by Connecticut’s Constitution. In addition, in the near future, 40% of Connecticut’s entire workforce will be coming from our state’s poorer, urban, Priority School Districts. Our state’s economic future depends on providing all of our young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed. Finally, the price tag for creating quality schools is not cheap. Connecticut’s schools are already underfunded and yet Connecticut taxpayers are paying about 80% of the entire educational expenses in cities like Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.
Education is both the economic and civil rights issue of our time.
Governor Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas, “Special Master,” Steven Adamowski and the corporate education reformers claim to have the solution – simply hand our public schools over to private corporations.
The approach being perpetrated by these corporate reformers couldn’t be more wrong and Wendy Lecker’s latest column dives that point home.
Wendy Lecker writes;
“Most people who board the wrong train headed to the wrong destination get off and look for the right train.
But not the educational leadership of Hartford.
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, a protégé of the controversial “reformer” Steven Adamowski, has climbed on the wrong train despite the obvious signs that it will take Hartford in the wrong direction.
In her state of the schools address, Kishimoto highlighted a study conducted for her by University of Connecticut researchers. The study measured, by neighborhood, factors that inhibit the ability to learn, such as child poverty, the percentage of adults without high school or college degrees, crime, health, housing and neighborhood stability, and community assets such as preschool and after-school programs.
Fifty years of research have established that these out-of-school influences account for the majority of differences in student achievement.
In a recent New York Times article, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon summarized his research demonstrating that income inequality is the prime factor in educational disparities. As Professor Reardon noted, schools do not “produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students.”
Reardon’s research revealed that the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students has widened in the past three decades largely because income inequality has increased, affluent students arrive to kindergarten better prepared than poor students, and affluent parents spend more on enrichment and tutoring.
Our best chance to reduce academic disparities, then, is to work to reduce economic inequities.
To the extent schools can help, we must give them the capacity to counteract the forces that hinder learning. That means a sufficient number of social workers, school psychologists, health centers, extra academic help and support for children and families, as well as a rich and varied curriculum.
However, rather than address the factors that prevent Hartford’s neediest children from learning, Hartford Superintendent Kishimoto seems intent on taking us in completely the wrong direction, ignoring the evidence she herself requested.
First on Kishimoto’s agenda is expanding the Achievement First charter franchise in Hartford. Achievement First, Inc., already operates a charter school in Hartford and is notorious for failing to serve Hartford’s neediest children. In a city where 43 percent of students come from non-English-speaking homes, only 4.8 percent of Achievement First’s students come from non-English-speaking homes. In Hartford, 18 percent of students are not fluent in English; at Achievement First, 4.8 percent. Thirteen percent of Hartford’s students have disabilities compared with 7.5 percent at Achievement First. Moreover, Achievement First has a 25 percent attrition rate.
Achievement First, a state charter school, is funded directly by the state and is not part of Hartford’s school district. However, Hartford Public Schools must pay for special education services and transportation for Hartford children attending the school. On top of this requirement, Hartford public schools paid $1.5 million dollars for capital improvements on Achievement First’s school building, which the charter uses for free. Additionally, Hartford and Achievement First entered into an agreement whereby the district pays more money to the charter company. This coming year, the district is scheduled to pay Achievement First over $3.2 million.”
Wendy’s assessment the approach being implemented by Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is harsh but 100% accurate.
Take the time to read the whole column at the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-consistently-wrong-path-to-4487142.php#ixzz2SQUbtfw3
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Hartford, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, Christina, Hartford, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Joined by the Chairman of the Hartford Board of Education, Hartford Superintendent of Schools and “education reformer protégé,” Christiana Kishimoto, began her annual “State of the Schools” speech by presenting Governor Malloy with the Hartford State of the Schools Award “to thank him for education reform and its impact on Hartford.”
Then, Kishimoto announced that she was throwing her support behind the creation of yet another Achievement First charter school for Hartford.
What a surprise! The company co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, has the support of Hartford’s superintendent, despite the fact that Achievement First, Inc. has completely failed to educate its fair share of non-English speaking students, students who go home to households where English is not the primary language or students who require special education services.
Take at a look at the data
Hartford vs. Achievement First – Hartford: Servicing students who are not fluent in the English language (ESL):
||Hartford Public Schools
||Achievement First – Hartford
Hartford vs. Achievement First – Hartford: Servicing students who go home to households where English in not the primary language:
||Hartford Public Schools
||Achievement First – Hartford
Hartford vs. Achievement First – Hartford: Servicing students who have disabilities that require special education services:
||Hartford Public Schools
||Achievement First – Hartford
Imagine, a city where one out of five students are fluent in English, a city in which more than 6 in 10 students go home to households where English is not the primary language and where more than 1 in 10 students need special education services…and that city’s superintendent of schools supports the expansion of a charter school management company that fails to provide appropriate services to those students!
Instead of working to ensure that all of Hartford’s students are serviced, Hartford’s “education reform” superintendent is pushing for even more seats and more funding for Achievement First, Inc.
Sadly, this insulting action doesn’t come as a surprise.
When Governor Malloy nominated Stefan Pryor for the position of Commissioner of Education, Wait, What? readers had the opportunity to learn all about Steven Pryor and Achievement First, Inc.
Readers may even recall the post that read:
In 2010, Achievement First’s Board of Directors adopted an aggressive strategic plan to grow Achievement First. The plan, which is outlined in their 2010 Annual Report, is designed to increase the number of Achievement First charter schools from 20 schools to 35 schools in the next few years. Instead of serving 5,400 students, Achievement First plans to serve more than 12,000 students.
If they utilized the present “Management Fee” system, Achievement First, Inc. would be collecting nearly $10 million a year in taxpayer funds.
Recall that Achievement First Inc. noted in their plan that when that strategic plan is implemented, Achievement First “will serve more students than 95 percent of school districts in the United States.”
Meanwhile, Achievement First has also been working to successfully change Connecticut law to allow the company’s existing schools to expand over their statutory limits.
A 2010 law eliminated the grade limit of 85 students per grade and REQUIRED that the State Department of Education “waive the overall enrollment limits,” if these particular charter schools wanted to expand.
Instead of requiring the Connecticut State Board of Education to weigh the costs and benefits of allowing these charter schools to expand, the new law required them to allow the expansions.
The net effect was that Achievement First, already the largest charter school company in Connecticut, has an automatic green light to expand.
Achievement First Hartford, which had 593 students in 2010-2011, will reach 797 by 2012-2013 and will still expand even further in subsequent years. Achievement First Bridgeport will go from 410 in 2010-2011 to 672 in 2012-2013, and smaller expansions will be taking place at Achievement First Amistad Academy and at Achievement First’s Elm City College Preparatory school.
So let’s put Christiana Kishimoto’s proposal in perspective. At the very moment that Hartford is undermining its existing schools, Hartford’s superintendent is supporting a proposal to divert even more funds to a company that fails to provide educational services to a significant portion of Hartford’s children.
It is what a normal person would call an outrage!
Christina Kishimoto, Ethics, Hartford Christina Kishimoto, Ethics, Hartford
I was recently introduced to a blog written by Kevin Brookman called “We the People.” Brookman created the site as a way to shine the light of truth into the inner-workings of Hartford City Hall.
One look at the blog and you can see why some of Hartford’s political elite should be living in fear of his efforts to inform the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut about what is actually going on in the state’s capital city.
Of particular note is his recent acquisition of 257 pages of credit card charges by city officials, using their city credit card.
Although the information is certainly a public record, Hartford officials failed to provide Brookman with the information, despite a Freedom of Information request for the data. However, he was finally able to acquire the reports by, as he puts it, “alternative means”.
Brookman writes, “After reviewing the reports below, I can see now why the City did not want me to see them. So much for that transparency they keep talking about.”
The reports reveal literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditures charged to Hartford City Government Credit Cards.
Many of the charges are clearly personal in nature and it isn’t clear whether these high-ranking Hartford city officials are required to reimburse the city for their personal expenditures.
Assuming the expenditures are reimbursed, it is still a stunning portrayal of arrogance that any public official would think to use a public credit card for such expenditures.
And if the expenses are not reimbursed, there should be a whole lot of job openings in Hartford in the coming weeks and at least one multi-passenger bus ferrying former city employees off to various correctional facilities.
One look at the list will paint a far more provocative picture than I ever could.
And as Brookman notes in his blog, “One of the highest paid City employees, Jose Colon Rivas seems to enjoy the finer things in life, running up a hotel bill at a luxury hotel in California. Over $7,400 in the course of 6 days at the Hotel Palomar in West wood LA. “
Here is a link to the credit card report: http://www.scribd.com/doc/134568220/Hartford-Pcard-Report-All-Users.
Feel free to nominate expenditures that deserve follow-up.
My favorite is the dozens of expenditures on Amazon.com. Maybe part of Malloy’s corporate welfare package for Amazon was an understanding that some key public officials in Hartford would use public funds to buy hundreds of items from Amazon thereby helping the internet giant and funding Connecticut’s growing deficit via Amazon’s new willingness to collect sales tax.
Another “head-scratcher” is the various expenditures for iTunes including $29.97 worth of expenditures that Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto charged to her City Credit Card. Maybe she was downloading the audio version of the education reformer’s best seller, “How to Privatize American’s Public Schools.”
But Hartford City Treasurer, Adam Cloud, easily beat out Kishimoto with $51.50 worth of iTunes on his Hartford credit card.
And you can find more in Brookman’s blogs, which can be found via the following links: http://wethepeoplehartford.blogspot.com/2013/04/mayor-segarra-get-out-scissors.html?m=0 and http://wethepeoplehartford.blogspot.com/2013/04/city-credit-cards-full-report.html?m=0 and http://wethepeoplehartford.blogspot.com/2013/04/mayor-segarra-time-to-join-aaa.html?m=0
Bridgeport, Gifted and Talented, Hartford, New London, Wendy Lecker, Windham Bridgeport, Gifted and Talented, Hartford, New London, Windham
The Washington Post’s education reporter, Valerie Strauss, reprinted the recent column written by Wendy Lecker on her blog, The Answer Sheet.
Strauss writes, “Are schools for “gifted” students promoting segregation? Here’s an argument that they are, from Wendy Lecker, a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center.”
Lecker’s piece was first published in the Stamford Advocate and through the other Hearst Connecticut media outlets and then re-posted here at Wait, What? under the title “Gifted” to the right, “Special” to the left, the rest of you sit down and wait”
In addition, you can read my commentary pieces on the subject here at: Gifted and Talented Academy leaves Latino and Special Education Students out and Blessed are the Gifted for they shall inherit the earth. More
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, Fuse, Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Meanwhile, as Jumoke’s Chief Operating Officer waits for the Connecticut Legislature to vote to put her on the State Board of Education, the Hartford Board of Education voted last night to direct another $1,054,143 to the Jumoke Academy and $1,173,327 to Achievement First.
On a 5 to 1 vote, the Hartford Board of Education authorized the Superintendent to accept money from America’s #1 education reformer, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The majority of the money flows through to Hartford’s two largest charter school management organizations (Jumoke and Achievement First) and even the money going to the Board of Education is restricted in such a way as to force Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers to devote even more resources to the charter school industry.
Although the Gates Foundation money is a tiny portion of the Hartford School System’s total budget, by accepting the grant, the Hartford Board is committed to instituting more standardized testing (the NWEA MAP test), supporting the expansion of more charter slots (a gift for Jumoke and Achievement First) and attaching teacher evaluation results (From the Danielson/Teachscape programs) to the NWEA MAP and other standardized test data.
Adding insult to injury, thanks in no small part to Hartford’s Mayor, the Board of Education didn’t even vote to authorize the city to go after the funds. Instead, the pro-charter school administration cut the deal with the Gates Foundation and the members of the Board of Education had the choice of accepting or rejecting the entire package. Instead of sending the deal back for more negotiations and a fairer distribution of funds, the Board rubber stamped the package. The only no vote came from Working Family Party member Robert Cotto Jr. The Democrats, as a block, sided with the charter schools.
The Gates Foundation grant directs that the money be given to Achievement First to set up a leadership training program for school administrators; that money be used to expand teacher evaluation, training and coaching program including the requirement that Achievement First play a leading role in that effort; provides funds to align Hartford’s school curricula to the new Common Core Standards; and provides funds to expand Jumoke Academy’s role as a “high performing charter school.”
It is ironic that the grant refers to Jumoke as a high performing charter school when it is clear that in a city with a high Latino population, a large non-English speaking student body and more than one in ten students needing special education services, Jumoke is a charter school company that has been completely unwilling to take on their fair share of Latino, non-English speaking and special education students.
Not surprising, but perhaps most insulting of all is that the grant must be used to “Develop Jumoke Academy’s capacity to successfully manage and implement the transformation of low-performing schools in Hartford.” This clearly indicates that some type of deal has or will be struck to hand even more Hartford schools over to the Fuse/Jumoke charter school management company.
No need to determine whether it would be more effective to develop Hartford’s own capacity to improve the existing public schools.
No need to determine whether there are other charter schools or organizations that would do a better job than Jumoke.
No need for an open, fair and competitive bidding process to determine whether Jumoke is the best private company to run those schools or whether taxpayers are getting the best rates.
No need to select a private vendor who has experience working with Latino and non-English speaking students.
No need to select a company that is experienced, willing and able to take on its fair share of special education students.
Nope, none of that.
Instead, Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and the corporate education reform industry will simply continue to move forward, playing by their own set of rules, exempting themselves from the laws that apply to everyone else whenever they deems it appropriate and leaving the vast majority of students, especially Latino, non-English speaking students and students who need special education services in the dust.
And what is Governor Malloy’s solution?
Put the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy on the State Board of Education so that these policies can be promoted across the state.
Bridgeport, Gifted and Talented, Hartford, New London, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham Bridgeport, Gifted and Talented, Hartford, New London, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
Fellow columnist and pro-public education blogger, Wendy Lecker, and I have both written about the plan to open “gifted and talented” academies next fall in Windham, New London and Bridgeport. The three new schools will be called Renzulli Academies and modeled after the school in Hartford by the same name.
Details about the plan can be found by reading the Wait, What? posts entitled, Blessed are the Gifted for they shall inherit the earth and “Gifted” to the right, “Special” to the left, the rest of you sit down and wait.
The proposal to segregate “gifted” students from the rest of the population raises a variety of extremely serious issues, not the least of which is the negative impact it would have on both the students who are being pulled out and the students left behind in the “traditional” public schools.
Furthermore, since part of the selection process for these schools will be utilize Connecticut Mastery Test results, and standardized test results are driven, in no small part, by poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services, specific groups within our society will be disproportionately hurt by this proposal.
As everyone knows, being “gifted” in certain skill areas is in no way related to needing help with the English language or needing special education services in other areas.
But the existing Renzulli Academy is proof that an unfair selection criteria will have an unfair result.
As the following chart reveals, Latino children, those who are not fluent in English and those who need some sort of special education services are disproportionately left out of the program.
- While 52 percent of Hartford’s students are Latino, the population of the Renzulli Academy is only 33 percent Latino.
- While 17 percent of Hartford students need specialized help learning English, less than 1% of the students at the Renzulli Academy qualify as ELL students.
- And while a student can certainly be both “gifted” and need special education services, while 12.7 percent of Hartford students utilize special education programs, only 5 percent of the Renzulli Academy students have special education requirements.
The proposal to expand these “gifted” schools into Windham, New London and Bridgeport is unfair, inappropriate and will expand – not reduce – segregation in our schools.
% English Language Learners
% Special Education
Hartford, Malloy, State Debt Hartford, Malloy, State Debt
Or, as the Hartford Courant’s real estate reporter explained in a paragraph that I’m still trying to interpret, “The state expects to save $200 million, adjusted for inflation, over the next 20 years. The savings is roughly $100 million in today’s dollars.”
But that statement aside, here are the facts;
On Thursday the State Bond Commission will meet to authorize the state to borrow the funds necessary to purchase the Connecticut River Plaza office complex for $34.5 million and 55 Farmington Avenue for $18 million.
Over the next two years, about 3,300 state employees will be moved from their present locations to these two buildings.
The total state cost to purchase, renovate and move into the two buildings will be in the range of $120 million.
United Healthcare was leasing Connecticut River Plaza until a few years ago when it moved to City Place, while 55 Farmington Avenue is owned by The Hartford Financial Services Group.
Apparently the state will also be purchasing the Morgan Street Parking Garage but funding for that purchase is not part of the $120 million nor is the cost of tearing down 25 Sigourney Street, after the departments of social and revenue services move to 55 Farmington Avenue.
According to the Hartford Business Journal and the Hartford Courant, the priority will be to move state employees out of the 25 Sigourney Street, the 20-story building that the state purchased from the Xerox Corporation for $43 million in 1995.
Almost immediately after the building was purchased it became clear that mold problems, resulting from numerous water leaks, were making employees sick. Insiders report that it was widely known that the building had problems prior to the state’s decision to purchase it. In addition, a portion of the building’s parking garage had to be closed down last year due to structure and safety concerns.
The state spent significant funds trying to fix the mold and water leak problems before giving up and deciding to close the building.
Forgotten over time is the fact that earlier, in 1991, the state purchased the 14-story 60 Washington Street building to serve as state offices for the cost of about $15 million. However, the building was never used and the state tore down the building in 2000 when it became apparent that it would cost at least $30 million to remove asbestos and renovate the building.
Finally, in what can only be described as the best public relations spin of this entire situation, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra told the Hartford Courant that the City welcomed the State’s decision to bring more state workers into the city, but it wants the State to provide the City with additional funding to soften the hit it will be taking from having two large private properties come off the tax rolls. The combined impact to Hartford’s tax revenue stream of losing the two properties is in the range of $2 million.
According to the Courant, “At a news conference Wednesday, Malloy acknowledged the loss of property taxes for the city, where the budget deficit is forecast to rise to $82 million in 2016. ‘All this needs to work out in the best interest of the state and the best interest of the city, and that’s what we’ve pledged to do with the mayor,’ Malloy said.”
At the same time, Malloy’s new proposed state budget completely eliminates the long-standing Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program that serves as a primary source of revenue for Hartford and a number of other Connecticut cities and towns that have significant amounts of public property. Malloy’s budget does not eliminate funding for the PILOT program for private, tax exempt properties, only for properties owned by the state.
Segarra told the Courant, “We have other ways to make up for some of this revenue…” One option, according to the media account is for the State to provide additional funds to compensate the city for the XL Center.
Meanwhile, Wait, What? readers are welcome to suggest how that opening paragraph should be interpreted – the one that reads – “The state expects to save $200 million, adjusted for inflation, over the next 20 years. The savings is roughly $100 million in today’s dollars.”
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Bridgeport, Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Hartford, Malloy, New Haven, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Hartford, Malloy, New Haven, Stefan Pryor
It might be difficult economic times here in Connecticut. Taxes going up, vital services being cut, but low and behold, public funds are flowing ever faster into Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
Not only is Commissioner Pryor overseeing the process that is allowing Achievement First to expand its schools in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, but he is playing the pivotal role in the approval process for new taxpayer-funded charter schools in Connecticut.
The net result is that Achievement First is the fastest growing charter school entity in the state.
Now comes news of even more public funds and support for the company that Pryor helped build as one of its original directors.
The application deadline is quickly approaching for the new Achievement First Residency Program for School Leadership.
The “best and brightest” teachers from Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford Public Schools are being asked to participate.
According to the program’s recruitment materials, “This full-time, paid residency opportunity will allow talented education reformers to learn and leverage some of the country’s most effective practices to drive breakthrough student achievement.”
Participants will complete two residencies over the course of one academic year, “first at a high-performing Achievement First school and then at a district school with a high-impact principal.”
“Residents will be mentored by an outstanding principal at each school, given specific leadership responsibilities, and provided with focused feedback on their growth and development. Residents will simultaneously receive structured professional development and guidance on change implementation strategy from amazing practitioners.”
The material goes on to claim, “Following the residency year, the intention is to deem Residency Program graduates who meet program requirements and competency standards as placement-ready assistant principals (APs) or principals.”
Despite the unprecedented financial crisis, participants will receive full salary and benefits. In fact, the participants will continue to be employees of the local schools systems so they will continue to retain all district benefits and have a job to fall back on if they aren’t deemed an appropriate fit for promotion.
Professional development programs are hardly unique and are generally very valuable, but in this case, the program is being developed and run through an exclusive district/charter school management agreement that will serve as the one year alternative route to certification for people to become school administrators.
The whole approach is a statement about how Achievement First, Pryor and the other reformers look down on all that “extra” academic training that regular administrators are supposed to be getting before running our schools.
Call this the FAST TRACK to become an education reform school administrator.
The whole notion of diverting the best teachers away from the classroom and into charter school-run “training,” at a time when there aren’t enough staff to even maintain existing programs, let alone enhance efforts to promote quality educational programs, is a farce.
The program is little more than a publicly-funded effort to create a pipeline to recruit and train charter school administrators, paid for by taxpayers of Connecticut and its three poorest cities.
And who is the biggest beneficiary of all?
Who is collecting the funds? Who is coordinating the effort? Who will be siphoning off the graduates?
Achievement First, Inc., the very charter school management company that Stefan Pryor helped to create and lead for the eight years before he became Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.
And we wonder why taxpayers are sick and tired of paying more and getting less.
Christina Kishimoto, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Milner School, Stefan Pryor
Last night, the Hartford Board of Education, led by Hartford’s Mayor, voted 6 to 2 to authorize Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto, to sign a contract with Family Urban Schools of Excellence (aka Jumoke Academy, lnc.)
The agreement would allow FUSE/Jumoke Academy Inc. to manage Hartford’s Milner Elementary School and, in turn, FUSE/Jumoke Academy Inc. would be given $345,000 a year to perform that task.
The problem is that the contract that the Hartford Board of Education voted on last night was not developed in the methods allowed by law.
While people may disagree about the appropriateness of handing over a public school, where nearly half the children go home to households where English is not the primary language, to a company that has never educated a single bi-lingual student, no one should misunderstand the nature of last night’s Board of Education vote.
The question is not whether the Hartford Board of Education has the right to make such a bad policy decision. Transferring management of the Milner School to FUSE/Jumoke Academy may hurt hundreds of Latino and other bilingual children, but Governor Malloy’s new education reform law unfortunately allows cities and towns to contract with third parties to run public schools.
That said, any contract to delegate management of a school must be done in a legal way and a review of the facts makes it clear that the contract the Hartford Board of Education voted on last night WAS NOT developed according to law.
As everyone knows, an act is illegal when it is done contrary to what the law requires or is forbidden by the law.
When it comes to developing contracts that use public funds, Connecticut and its municipalities have very specific requirements concerning what must be done in order for a contract to be legally binding.
If contract is developed in an inappropriate way, that contract is null and void and cannot be utilized.
In addition to appropriate provisions of Connecticut law, since the Milner School agreement was between FUSE/Jumoke Academy Inc. and the Hartford Board of Education, the laws that must be followed include the City of Hartford’s Municipal Code.
Hartford’s Municipal Code could not be clearer. According to Sec. 2-548(A), “All agreements, in an amount in excess of the twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00) threshold established by the Charter of the City, shall be awarded through the competitive solicitation process…”
The contract between the Hartford Board of Education and FUSE/Jumoke Academy was for $375,000 a year, clearly in excess of the twenty-five thousand dollar threshold, but no competitive process was used.
However, Hartford’s Municipal Code does provide for what is called “sole source procurement” in special circumstances. Section 2-552 provides that, “A contract or purchase order may be awarded for a commodity, service, or construction item without competition when, under regulation or policy, the Purchasing Agent determines, in writing, that there is only one known capable supplier or source for the required commodity, service, or construction item occasioned by the unique nature of the requirement, the supplier or market conditions.”
This means that if there is only one possible qualified vendor, the public entity may skip the competitive bidding process. However, by its own admission, the Hartford’s Board of Education did not follow or even attempt to utilize the sole source provision when developing the FUSE/Jumoke Academy Inc. contract.
Finally, Hartford’s Municipal code contains provisions for purchases during “public emergencies” (Sec. 2-553) and “extraordinary conditions” (Sec. 2-554), but the FUSE/Jumoke contract would not qualify for either of these provisions and was those provisions were not used.
So if Hartford did not go through the required bid process nor did it go through the alternative sole source process, how did the contract come about?
Maybe Hartford officials will claim that the agreement is not a contract or is a state contract and not one within the purview of the Board of Education?
But of course, it is a contract and, in particular, it is a contract between the Hartford Board of Education and FUSE/Jumoke Academy Inc.
Governor Malloy’s education reform law directs the following;
“Sec. 10-223i. Contracts between boards of education and not-for-profit educational management organizations…the local or regional board of education for a school participating in the commissioner’s network of schools, as described in section 10-223h, that is implementing a turnaround plan that assigns the management, administration or governance of such school to a not-for-profit educational management organization, as defined in section 10-223h, shall include in each contract with such approved not-for-profit educational management organization a requirement that such not-for-profit educational management organization annually submit to the Commissioner of Education, and make publicly available, a report on the operations of such school…”
So by state law, the agreement between FUSE/Jumoke and the Hartford Board of Education MUST be a “contract.”
In this case, Hartford was responsible for submitting a turnaround plan for Milner and the State Board of Education then approved that plan. It was Hartford that decided to delegate the Milner School to Jumoke Academy. It could have chosen to hand over the school to another entity or could have decided to use its own management skills to turnaround the school. Regardless, once the City decided to pick someone else to run the school, it was required to make that choice using an appropriate purchasing process.
And Hartford failed to perform that most basic function.
Now, as every legislator knows, it is possible to write a bill that exempts certain actions from an existing law. For example, Malloy’s education bill could have said, “Notwithstanding state purchasing laws and municipal codes, boards of education may sign contracts with not-for-profit educational management organizations without going through purchasing requirements.”
Legislative language like that would have allowed the state and towns to circumvent contracting requirements when handing over public schools to third parties. BUT THE LEGISLATURE DID NOT INCLUDE SUCH LANGUAGE.
So the law is the law.
Hartford may develop a contract with the FUSE/Jumoke Academy Inc., but if it wishes to do so, it must follow state and municipal purchasing laws.
The Board of Education failed to do that and that means the contract they claim to have approved is, in fact, illegal.
As Americans we don’t pick and choose which laws we want to follow. The law is the law and no one is above the law.
The Hartford Board of Education must, like all government entities, follow the law. Even when the law is inconvenient.
They could have followed the law. They should have followed the law.
Instead they have backed themselves into a very difficult position by attempting to approve an illegal contract.
The only way out is to admit their mistake and go back and do things the right way.
Anything short of that is unacceptable.