The Beginning of the end for the Charter School Industry in Connecticut

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy ushered in the Charter School Industry to Connecticut as part of his corporate education reform initiative in 2012.  As part of his “education reforms,”

  •  Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”
  • Malloy uttered his infamous observation that all teachers had to do was show up for four years and they’d get tenure.
  • In defense of his plans to implement the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, Malloy said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.
  • And Malloy handed Connecticut’s State Department of Education over to corporate education reform aficionados like Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski, education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and the charter school industry.

In the past two and a half years, Connecticut taxpayers have we seen tens of millions of dollars in public funds diverted to feed the monster known as the emerging education reform industry.

Scarce taxpayer resources wasted on the Common Core, the Common Core Test, the unfair teacher evaluation program and for charter schools that fail to meet the most basic standards of accountability.

But over the past few months, the tide has been turning and the  truth about Malloy, Malloy’s administration, the “education reformers” and the charter schools have been coming out.

The collapse of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain was just the beginning – the time has come when the education reformers will finally be held accountable for their actions.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting today in an article entitled, More Federal Subpoenas In Hartford Charter School Probe,

HARTFORD — City and state educators said Monday that they had been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury examining the expenditure of millions of dollars in public money by the troubled charter school management company FUSE.

The subpoenas were issued Friday to the Hartford Public Schools and the state Department of Education, both of which have had extensive dealings with the state-subsidized FUSE, short for the Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

FUSE was created in 2012 as a management company that used public and private money to take over failing, inner-city public schools and operate them as public charter schools. FUSE’s management agreements with public school systems gave it wide discretion over spending on salaries, rents, curriculum, equipment and other items.

A series of embarrassing disclosures in the past month appears to have crippled FUSE, costing the organization all its management business, worth more than $1 million a year. The closely affiliated Jumoke Academy fired FUSE as manager of its three Hartford charter schools. Schools in Bridgeport and New Haven severed ties with FUSE, and educators in Louisiana, concerned about events in Connecticut, pulled FUSE from a charter school set to open in Baton Rouge next month.

The public is learning the truth and the charter school industry and their public official allies will finally be held accountable for their actions.

You can read the full Hartford Courant story on this developing situation at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-0722-20140721,0,3308874.story

Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (by Sarah Darer Littman)

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Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (CT Newsjunkie)

Sarah Darer Littman, pro-public school advocate, award winning columnist and parent has written one of the most powerful commentary pieces about the state of the state when it comes to the Charter School Industry and how the Malloy administration has allowed tens of millions in taxpayer funds to be diverted to people and companies that are literally felons, liars and cheats.

If there is one article to read about Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and the rise of the corporate education reform movement in Connecticut, this is the one.

Sarah Darer Littman writes,

The traditional definition of chutzpah  is someone who kills his mother and father and then claims being an orphan as a mitigating circumstance.

I’ve been reminded of this word constantly as the FUSE/Jumoke charter scandal unfolded over the last two weeks.

L’Affaire Sharpe has been quite astonishing, because as a mere mortal, not a Crony of Dan Malloy or part of the Charter Chicanery Circus, I underwent more due diligence than Sharpe to become a creative writing instructor for an after-school program at one of the local elementary schools for the non-hefty fee of a few hundred bucks.

To teach this Afters program, run by the Cos Cob Elementary School PTA, I had to undergo a criminal background check.

Last year, when I was hired as an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and we know how well adjuncts are paid), before my appointment was confirmed I underwent another criminal background check, and also had to have my transcript sent from the institution where I’d received my Masters Degree. Funnily enough, it was New York University, the educational establishment where Michael Sharpe received his fictional doctorate.

Yet the members of the state Board of Education, all appointed or re-appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, required no such due diligence before forking over $53 million of our taxpayer dollars to “Doctor” Sharpe’s organization. Just to make things even cozier, Gov. Malloy appointed FUSE’s chief operating officer, Andrea Comer, to the state Board of Education. Comer resigned earlier this week, in order to avoid being a “distraction.” I’m afraid it’s a little too late for that.”

Every word of Sarah Darer Littman’s CTNewsjunkie commentary piece paints the ugly story surrounding Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Pryor’s hand-picked employees and high-paid consultants and the State Board of Education.

In addition, Littman traces the relationship to no-nothing policy makers who have allowed scarce public resources to be squandered on the make-a-fast-buck industry that has been the foundation of Malloy’s education reform effort.

As you read Littman’s piece, remember that these are the same people who have forced the Common Core on our children, promoted the absurd, unfair and expensive Common Core testing scheme and the equally absurd, unfair and wasteful new teacher evaluation program.

No amount of political spin coming from Malloy or his education reform industry allies will disguise the fact that by introducing a bill to do away with teacher tenure and repeal collective bargaining rights for teachers in “turnaround schools,” Malloy became the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation.

As Sarah Darer Littman concludes,

“I guess no one in Hartford was watching the cookie jar — too much cronyism and not enough good government.”

You can find this MUST READ piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_charter_advocates_give_new_meaning_to_chutzpah/

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Charter School company collapse continues

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Andrea Comer, the former COO of Jumoke/FUSE charter school company has resigned her position on the State Board of Education, while the Bridgeport Board of Education prepares to end ties with Jumoke/FUSE, the charter school company that was given a lucrative no-bid contract to run Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Paul Vallas, the ousted former head of Bridgeport’s Schools.

Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Malloy appointed Comer to the State Board of Education in the spring of 2013.  Wait, What? readers may recall the series of posts about Comer, Malloy and his inappropriate decision to put the charter school executive on the State Board of Education.

News of Comer’s resignation came late today following today’s State Board of Education meeting.

The following statement was released by the Pelto/Murphy 2014 campaign following the announcement:

Statement of Jonathan Pelto, Candidate for Governor, Education and Democracy Party, On the resignation of Andrea Comer from the Connecticut State Board of Education

“The fact is that Governor Dannel ‘Dan’ Malloy should never have put Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company, on the State Board of Education in the first place.  In April 2013, I wrote that the decision to nominate and confirm a high-ranking charter school executive to Connecticut’s education policy board was yet another attack on Connecticut’s school teachers, the teacher unions, and the 99% of students who attend public district schools.

As recently as three weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled, ‘Pelto to Malloy: Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut.’  Comer’s departure is an important step, but Connecticut’s public schools students, parents, teachers and citizens will not have the Department of Education they deserve until Malloy, Pryor and the remaining members of the State Board of Education are gone, as well.”

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Meanwhile, as the Hartford Courant is reporting;

In another blow to a Hartford charter school group, Bridgeport Interim Superintendent Frances Rabinowitz said Wednesday she intends to end the district’s partnership with FUSE.

Rabinowitz will present the plan to the Bridgeport board of education on Thursday evening. State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, who was a supporter of FUSE until recently, said he agreed with the action.

FUSE had a state-funded role managing Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.

The announcement comes a week after published reports that FUSE, which also manages the heavily state-financed Jumoke Academy charter schools in Hartford, had employed a registered sex offender at Dunbar despite a management agreement stating that “no employee of Jumoke who will work at Dunbar or who will work directly with Dunbar students is listed on any Sex Offender Registry.”

“Recent revelations regarding FUSE have given rise to significant concerns regarding the organization’s ability to continue working with Dunbar,” Pryor and Rabinowitz said in a joint statement. “Teachers, students and parents have demonstrated commendable resolve to turn around Dunbar. They deserve a partner who will be able to provide the attention and support necessary for the work that lies ahead.”

Rabinowitz had told The Courant that FUSE failed to inform her of the employee’s criminal record, which included drug convictions, until last week and that she was “incredibly concerned.”

Rabinowitz questioned whether the embattled charter organization, also known as Family Urban Schools of Excellence, should continue running Dunbar School under a year-old arrangement through the state Commissioner’s Network, a reform initiative that gives millions in extra funding to struggling schools that implement a three- to 5-year “turnaround” plan.

You can read more about this breaking story at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-bridgeport-school-0710-20140709,0,2832863.story

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Is the Charter Movement Imploding? (by Diane Ravitch)

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Using Connecticut as an example and featuring a recent Hartford Courant column written by Colin McEnroe, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, has entitled her latest blog Is the Charter Movement Imploding?

Ravitch writes,

In state after state, charter schools are proving that it is downright risky to turn public money over to deregulated corporations and unqualified individuals to run schools. The Detroit Free Press series on the scams, frauds, and corruption in many Michigan charters was an eye-opener for all those who are not part of the charter movement. The exposé of similar frauds in Florida by the League of Women Voters in Florida was enlightening to anyone other than free market ideologues. The same level of corruption–actually, even worse–exists in Ohio’s charter sector, where a small number of charter founders have become multi-millionaires, run low-performing schools, and are never held accountable.

One of the most colorful charter scandals occurred when a Cleveland charter operator was tried for funneling over $1million to his church and other businesses. The charter founder was a pastor, not an educator. His attorney said ““his client had good intentions when opening the school on East 55th Street but then got greedy when he saw easy opportunities to make money….”

The leader of California’s most celebrated charter school, with outstanding test scores, stepped down when an audit revealed that nearly $4 million had been diverted to his other businesses.

In Arizona, the Arizona Republic exposed charters that were family businesses, giving contracts to family members and board members.

In Chicago, the head of the city’s largest charter chain resigned after the media reported large contracts given to family members of school leaders and other conflicts of interest and misuse of public funds.

Last week, one of Connecticut’s most celebrated charter organizations was at the center of the latest scandal. Its CEO was revealed to have a criminal past and a falsified résumé. Two top executives immediately resigned, and legislators and journalists began to ask questions. No background checks? Accountability? Transparency?

Colin McEnroe wrote in the Hartford Courant’s blog that hustlers were cashing in on the charter school craze. Not just in Connecticut, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ohio, Arizona, on and on.

McEnroe wrote:

“The message is always the same: The essential concept behind the charter school movement is that, freed from the three Rs — restraints, rules and regulations — these schools could innovate and get the kinds of results that calcified, logy public schools could only dream about. And they do … sometimes.

“But handing out uncountable millions to operators who would be given a free hand was also like putting a big sign out by the highway that says “Welcome Charlatans, Grifters, Credential-Fakers, Cherry-Pickers, Stat-Jukers, Cult of Personality Freaks and People Who Have No Business Running a Dairy Queen, Much Less a School.” And they’ve all showed up. This is the Promised Land: lots of cash and a mission statement that implicitly rejects the notion of oversight…..

“What else goes with those big bubbling pots of money? A new layer of lobbyists and donation-bundlers. The Free Press documented the way a lawmaker who dared to make a peep of protest against charter schools getting whatever they want suddenly found himself in a race against a challenger heavily funded by the Great Lakes Education Project, the “powerhouse lobby” of the Michigan charter movement. Jon Lender of The Courant recently showed how one family of charter school advocates had crammed $90,000 into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers.”

If there were more investigations, more charter scandals would be disclosed.

When will public officials call a halt to the scams, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, nepotism, and corruption?

There is one defensible role for charter schools and that is to do what public schools can’t do. There is no reason to create a dual school system, with one free to choose its students and to cherry pick the best students, while the other must take all students. There is no reason to give charters to non-educators. There is no reason to allow charter operators to pocket taxpayer dollars for their own enrichment while refusing to be fully accountable for how public money is spent. Where public money goes, public accountability must follow.

You can read Colin McEnroe complete commentary piece at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80715880/

Diane Ravtich’s blog is at: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/05/is-the-charter-movement-imploding/

CT Post Editorial: A long-overdue step on charters

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

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

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

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

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

The Connecticut Post editorial does observe,

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

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

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

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

Well, how about that?

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

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

[…]

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

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

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The battle against the corporate education reform industry takes center stage

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Charter School Scandal Continues to Rock Malloy Administration…

However, rather than conduct a truly independent investigation into the fall of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education decided to hire a lawyer to conduct an “investigation.”

Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner added that his agency’s lawyers would be “extremely involved” in the investigation… this despite the fact that Pryor and his leadership team should be among those being investigated.

While the State Board of Education put FUSE, the parent company of Jumoke Academy on “probation,” they spent much of the meeting lavishing praise on Jumoke Academy.

But the two entities are so intertwined that the State Board of Education’s action deserves nothing but ridicule.

The fact is that the deal to hand Hartford’s Milner Elementary School over to Jumoke was made in March 2012.  The State Board of Education voted to give Milner to Jumoke at their meeting in August 2012, but FUSE, the parent company that signed the contract to run Milner, wasn’t even formed until October 2012 —– more than six months AFTER Pryor and his team had decided to hand over millions of state taxpayer dollars to run Milner.

To investigate FUSE and not Jumoke Academy  is nothing more than a blatant effort to sweep the problem under the rug.

But regardless of the State Board of Education’s action, the battle against charter schools and the corporate education reform industry is finally being brought to light.

As the CT Mirror explains in their leading news story this morning,

The inquiry comes as charter schools, once celebrated as laboratories of urban educational achievement and innovation, increasingly face a backlash from teachers’ unions and political figures ranging from the mayor of New York City to a third-party candidate for governor of Connecticut.

See CT Mirror: Scandal called ‘important moment’ in charter movement

The CT Mirror adds,

Anger over charter schools and the private non-profit companies that run them is helping fuel the third-party gubernatorial campaign of Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic legislator.”

To Pelto, the exposure of Sharpe’s record by The Hartford Courant is evidence of the shortcomings of a state education bureaucracy overly sympathetic of charter schools.

“I think it’s evidence there is no oversight, no meaningful oversight,” Pelto said.

On the same issue, CT Newsjunkie, has an article entitled, State Board of Education Launches Investigation, Requires Background Checks for Charters.  CT Newwjunkie reports,

Critics of charter schools who attended Monday’s meeting, including gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Pelto, say this is just proof that the charter model doesn’t work.

Pelto said these issues need to be investigated by an outside investigator because the allegations of inappropriate activities go all the way up into the commissioner’s office.

He said the board should have put the charter management group and its flagship charter school, Jumoke Academy, on probation.

And the Hartford Courant, the newspaper that produced the investigative news stories that brought down the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain has a story entitled, State Board Approves Probe Of Charter School CompanyThe Courant’s story includes my assessment of the State Department of Education’s action, in which I say,

It’s not just the fox dialing 911 when the chickens have disappeared – it’s the fox with the chicken feathers hanging out of their mouth dialing 911,” said Pelto, who suggested the state auditors should conduct the probe.

You can read much more about the is developing story by clicking on the titles of each of the articles

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News Flash:  Malloy/Pryor hand another top job to an Achievement First Inc. staffer

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The Malloy administration has given the one-hundred thousand-dollar-a-year-plus job of “Bureau Chief for District and School Transformation” to William (Billy) Johnson, a former employee of Achievement First Inc.

Of course, Achievement First, Inc. being the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner.   The company now operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and has been the largest beneficiary of Malloy’s effort to shovel funds to the charter school industry.

The new “Bureau Chief” will report to Morgan Barth, the State Department of Education’s ‘Division Director.”  Before getting his lucrative management job in the Malloy administration, Barth also worked for Achievement First, Inc.

And Barth reports to Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Not only did Pryor play a key role in the creation of Achievement First, Inc., but he served on its Board of Directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s “education reform” point-person.

The timing of this hand-out to another Achievement First Inc. employee is particularly noteworthy since it takes place at the very moment that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are circling the wagons in an attempt to deny any responsibility for the Jumoke Academy/FUSE Charter School Management Company debacle of the past few weeks.

Their claim that they didn’t know anything about the problems associated with Jumoke Academy/FUSE certainly lacks credibility since it was Pryor, Morgan Barth and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson, who worked directly with Jumoke Academy/FUSE to get them their two no-bid contracts – one to run the Milner School in Hartford and one to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport.  In addition, it was the same cast of characters who successfully got Jumoke Academy/FUSE their new charter school in New Haven.

But as we’ve seen throughout Malloy’s tenure in office, the charter school industry is a priority.

And now another senior position is being given to someone affiliated with Achievement First, Inc. and charter schools.

Billy Johnson worked for Achievement First, Inc. from 2004 to June 2009 and returned to Achievement two years ago to become a consultant for Achievement First’s “AF Residency Program for School Leadership in July 2012.

Johnson has also worked for the Domus Academy, another charter school company and for the Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut.

And what is Johnson’s most recent academic achievement? A 2014 graduate of the UConn’s infamous 093-CT Superintendent Executive Leadership Certificate Program, the very program that Pryor and the State Department of Education sidestepped in granting Paul Vallas his “certification” to run Bridgeport’s schools.

Although Johnson’s salary has not been released yet, the position was advertised for $102,546 – $131,539 per year plus benefits.

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Who me?  Pryor calls for an investigation of Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company

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Until tonight, observers could safely say that the single most outrageous political maneuver during Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s tenure has been his claim that he was pro-public education while being the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround” schools.

But Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, makes a run for the title of most absurd political maneuver of the decade by scheduling an emergency meeting of the State Board of Education this coming Monday and calling for an “Investigation of Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) and Jumoke Academy.”

As John Burroughs, the great 19th Century essayist, once said,

“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.”

Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education are the VERY REASON that the fraud, Michael Sharpe, and his private company, Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company, were given control of the Milner public school in Hartford, the Dunbar public school in Bridgeport and the new Booker T. Washington charter school in New Haven.

To date, Sharpe and his private company have received more than $53 million in public funds despite the fact that Sharpe served about five years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion and didn’t even finish his academic training, although he called himself Dr. Michael Sharpe.

But instead of admitting the key role Pryor, his minions and Malloy’s State Board of Education played in diverting tens of millions of additional dollars in public funds to Sharpe and Jumoke Academy/FUSE, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner is trying to duck the fundamental role he played in this scandal by claiming that he didn’t know anything about the problems that have surfaced about Sharpe and Jumoke Academy/FUSE thanks to a series of investigative news stories written by the Hartford Courant.

Although Pryor is the very reason Sharpe and Jumoke Academy/FUSE received these lucrative no-bid contracts, Malloy’s point person for his corporate education reform industry agenda is now calling for an investigation rather than resigning in disgrace.

Pryor and his anti-public education operatives have become the poster children for what is wrong with the corporate education reform industry’s effort to destroy and privatize Connecticut’s public education system.

Just take a look at the incredible and insulting press release Pryor put out late this afternoon.

Commissioner Pryor Calls for Investigation of Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) and Jumoke Academy

Matter will be discussed at Special Meeting of State Board of Education on June 30th

(HARTFORD, CT)—Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor today called for the appointment of a special investigator to examine the operations, finances, governance, and other issues related to recent revelations regarding Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) and Jumoke Academy.

The State Board of Education will discuss and act upon this and related matters at a special meeting on Monday, June 30, 2014, beginning at 10:00 a.m. in Room 307 of the State Office Building in Hartford.

The investigation would be led by attorney Frederick L. Dorsey of the Hartford law firm Kainen, Escalera & McHale, P.C.  Mr. Dorsey has decades of experience as an education lawyer advising boards of education in the full range of legal matters.  A onetime school district business administrator for the Waterford Board of Education, Mr. Dorsey has special expertise in the governance and finances of public education organizations.  Mr. Dorsey was selected for inclusion in the publication The Best Lawyers in America 2014 in the practice area of education law, and was also named the Hartford Education Law “Lawyer of the Year” for 2014.  Previously, the Department retained Mr. Dorsey to investigate suspected irregularities in the 2010 Connecticut Mastery Test administration at Hopeville School in Waterbury. And in 2013, Mr. Dorsey was retained by Vernon Public Schools to conduct a forensic audit of financial and bookkeeping practices of the district’s school lunch program.

When launched, the investigation will cover the finances, governance, and operations of FUSE and Jumoke Academy.  Interviews of members of the organizations’ staff and governing boards will be conducted, as well as analysis of relevant documents.  Mr. Dorsey will work with the State Department of Education’s Office of Internal Audit to coordinate the financial audit of Jumoke Academy being conducted by O’Connell, Pace & Company.  Mr. Dorsey will also advise the State Board of Education and Education Commissioner on recommended actions and policies.

Commissioner Pryor said, “We are deeply concerned about recent revelations regarding FUSE and Jumoke Academy.  Like all operators of public schools, these organizations have an obligation to meet high standards of organizational governance.  That way, we ensure that our students and parents are being served well. I am confident that, working with the State Board of Education, and with the assistance of a professional of Mr. Dorsey’s capability, we can achieve a full understanding of the totality of the situation – and of the next steps required.”

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Pelto to Malloy – Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut

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Pelto to Malloy: Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut:

Jonathan Pelto, the Education and Democracy Party’s candidate for governor called on Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy to fire Stefan Pryor, his Commissioner of Education and remove his political appointee, Andrea Comer from the State Board of Education.

Pryor, who co-founded Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company has masterminded Malloy’s unprecedented effort to expand charter schools in Connecticut, including the schools Pryor helped to create.

Andrea Comer, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company is one of Malloy’s appointees to the State Board of Education.  During her tenure, Jumoke Academy/Fuse has received a series of no-bid contracts to run local elementary schools in Hartford and Bridgeport as well as being selected as the manager of a new charter school in New Haven.

“In recent years, Connecticut taxpayers have paid Jumoke Academy/FUSE charter school management company, and their disgraced CEO Michael Sharpe, in excess of $53 million dollars. Over the past week we’ve learned that not only is Jumoke Academy/FUSE’s CEO a convicted felon, having served about 5 years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, but he also falsified his resume by claiming that he had a doctorate when he didn’t even complete his graduate degree,” Pelto said. “Stefan Pryor’s relationship with charter school companies and State Board of Education member Andrea Comer’s direct financial connection with Jumoke Acadmey/Fuse invalidate their ability to protect the interests of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, school districts and taxpayers.”

“It is bad enough that more than $50 million in scarce public funds have been turned over to Jumoke Academy/Fuse, but unless immediate action is taken to reverse the Malloy administration’s bad policy decisions, the series of no-bid contracts and State Board of Education votes will mean literally hundreds of millions more will be given to this charter school chain,” Pelto concluded.

Pelto has repeatedly raised concerns about Stefan Pryor’s conflict of interest on his blog, Wait, What? as far back as January 11, 2012 and he used his blog to focus on Andrea Comer’s conflict of interest as soon as Malloy had nominated Comer in the winter of 2013.

In February of this year Pelto penned a blog entitled, Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor must go.

As evidence as to why Pryor must resign or be removed, Pelto wrote,

Pryor’s management of the Connecticut Department of Education has become the personification of what happens when arrogance, elitism and corporate-driven interests replace a commitment to honesty, transparency and doing what is right for the people public officials have a sworn duty to serve.

From the moment Stefan Pryor arrived in Connecticut, the Malloy administration’s education policy has been consistently designed to destroy local control, belittle and demean teachers, reduce parental involvement, undermine our public schools and divert scarce public resources to out-of-state consultants and carpetbagging staff. Pryor’s tenure has been dedicated to a preoccupation with turning our schools into little more than standardized testing factories.

Pryor began his tenure by using no-bid contacts to pass out millions of dollars in public funds to out-of-state companies for the purpose of developing Malloy’s “education reform” initiative and transforming the State Department of Education into a gravy train for the corporate education reform industry.

Pryor helped Malloy develop and push through the most anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter school education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation.

Malloy and Pryor’s legislation and policies were founded upon the inappropriate use of the Common Core, the mandated introduction of a huge and faulty Common Core standardized testing scheme, an inaccurate and unfair teacher evaluation program and a “Commissioner’s Network” and system of “Turnaround Schools” that are reducing parental involvement, destroying local control and are primarily designed to privatize public schools.

In example, after example, after example, Stefan Pryor and his “team” have consistently put their political agenda ahead of what was best for the students, parents, teachers and public schools of our state.

Pryor has dedicated himself to hiring his personal friends, giving out millions of dollars in contracts to out-of-state, politically-connected companies, putting his “Turnaround Office” in the hands of Morgan Barth, a person who illegally taught and worked for Pryor’s charter school management company (Achievement First, Inc.) for six years and relentlessly and consistently doing the wrong thing for Connecticut’s system of public education.

The quintessential example of Pryor’s dismal and idiotic approach to governing was his decision to let go or transfer ten State Department of Education, Connecticut-based experts on improving schools and replacing them with an unending series of inexperienced, out-of-state consultants who have no meaningful experience or understanding of how to close the achievement gap in our largest and poorest school districts.

[Full February 6 2014 Wait, What? post can be found here: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/02/06/connecticut-commissioner-education-stefan-pryor-must-go/]

According to Pelto, the latest scandal involving Michael Sharpe and Jumoke Academy/Fuse only reinforces the fact that it is well past the time when Governor Malloy should remove Pryor and Comer from their policymaking roles within the Malloy administration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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