One Adam-12, One Adam-12, we have a COI in progress

COI as in Conflict of Interest…

(Written by Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)

Yesterday, the Connecticut State Department of Education held an eight-hour training session for elected officials, administrators and parents associated with the “turnaround” schools that make up the Commissioner’s Network.

Among various education reformers, the “training event” featured none other than the Jumoke Academy’s CEO Michael Sharpe and COO Andrea Comer.  They explained the theory and practice behind the corporate education reform’s successful privatization movement.  Not only does Jumoke Academy collect millions of taxpayer dollars as a result of their Hartford-based charter school, but they are now collecting a state-funded management fee of $345,000 a year to run “The Jumoke Academy at Milner,” the former Hartford elementary school that was given to Jumoke as part of the Commissioner’s Network.

Flush with public funds, this private non-profit corporation has even started a new charter school management company called FUSE, Inc.

Tomorrow, the Connecticut House of Representatives may take up House Joint Resolution No. 75. , A resolution confirming Governor Malloy’s nomination of ANDREA COMER (Jumoke’s COO) to serve as a member of the State board of Education.

Is it a conflict of interest for the COO of a charter school company to sit on the State Board of Education where she will vote on a variety of measures that will directly help Jumoke and other charter schools in the state?  Not in Malloy’s mind.

Under Connecticut law, it would be conflict if she was President or Senior Vice President or Treasurer of Jumoke, but because the law doesn’t specifically use the term Chief Operating Officer, the Office of State Ethics says there is no legal conflict.

But of course there is a conflict of interest.

As Wait, What? readers learned in a recent post entitled Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education, Andrea Comer worked for Charter School Management company, Achievement First, Inc., a company co-founded by Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, from  2009 to 2011 and started with Fuse/Jumoke Academy  in 2012.

Just a few weeks ago, Comer came before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee saying that she was representing “Jumoke Academy and its charter management organization FUSE, as its Chief Operating Officer…”

As a member of the State Board of Education, Comer will be voting on a wide variety of issues directly and indirectly affecting the profitability of the company she works for and Connecticut’s other charter schools.

Her boss, Michael Sharpe is not only the CEO of Jumoke Academy but has served as the President of the Connecticut Charter School Network, one of the organizations that is registered to lobby for charter schools.

Comer claims she has no conflict of interest despite the fact that she will be voting to review and reauthorize Jumoke’s Charter, review and vote on issues relating to the Jumoke Academy at Milner, review and vote on any requests by Jumoke Academy to expand, and vote on all regulations and funding decisions for Connecticut’s charter schools.

And those conflicts will occur on a continuous basis.

Just the other day, Jumoke’s Michael Sharpe was testifying before the General Assembly.  In a response to a question about how things were going with Jumoke’s takeover of the Milner School, he let slip a most interesting comment.  Sharpe said, “We’re actually extending it a little bit further in that Jumoke Academy has committed to working with the City of Hartford and possibly taking over schools like Milner School in a fee structure that allows us to help the City and the City also help our bottom line.”

Be sure to check back, because in the coming days we’ll be learning more about this secret deal between Sharpe, Jumoke and some officials within the City of Hartford.

These deals may very well have to go before the State Board of Education for approval where education reformers like Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor will count on the support of the newest member of the State Board of Education, who also just happens to be Fuse/Jumoke’s Chief Operating Officer.

Every day it becomes more and more apparent that Governor Malloy’s definition of following the law doesn’t actually include following the “spirit” of that law.

It will be interesting to see if any legislators are willing to stand up and speak out against Malloy’s nomination of Andrea Comer for a seat on the State Board of Education.

Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education

(Written by Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)

A Conflict of Interest:  A situation in which a public official’s decisions are influenced by the official’s personal interests.

From 2009 to 2011 she served as community outreach director for Achievement First, the large charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

In 2012, after a short stint as spokesperson for Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, she went to work for the Jumoke Academy, the Hartford-based charter school.

In October 2012, the Jumoke Academy’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, named her to the post of Chief Operating Officer for FUSE (Family Urban Schools of Excellence), the new charter school management company that Jumoke created to expand and “replicate” its schools.

According to a media report at the time, as COO of FUSE, her job would be to “core operations functions that support FUSE’s mission, overseeing organizational planning and serving as a member of the senior leadership team.”

Just six weeks ago, on February 21, 2013, she went before the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to speak in favor of more funding for charter schools and Governor Malloy’s education reforms saying, “I am here representing Jumoke Academy and its charter management organization Fuse, as its Chief Operating Officer…”

And then, a few days after that Governor Malloy nominated her to the Connecticut State Board of Education.

In addition to serving as COO of a charter school management company, she would be voting on whether to expand existing charter schools, authorize new charter schools and move more taxpayer funds from public district schools to charter schools.

Yesterday, the legislature’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee held a public hearing on her nomination and then immediately voted in favor of her nomination.

Next step for Andrea Comer – the Connecticut House of Representatives – for a final confirmation vote.

Certainly her conflict of interest is obvious.

Under Connecticut law, “A ‘substantial’ conflict of interest exists if a public official or state employee has reason to believe or expect that he or she, his or her spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he or she is associated will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by virtue of his or her official activity…”

And the law goes on to say that a  ‘Business with which…associated’ is defined to include any entity through which business for profit or not for profit is conducted in which the public official or state employee, or a member of his or her immediate family, is a director, officer…”

The language is simple and direct.

The conflict is obvious!

Jumoke Academy’s charter, the document that allows the school to exist,  must be reviewed and reauthorized by the State Board of Education on regular basis. The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Jumoke Academy’s request to expand is voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

The Commissioner’s recommendations concerning The Jumoke Academy at Milner (part of the Commissioner’s Network of “turnaround schools”) is voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Proposals to expand the number of Jumoke/Fuse schools in Connecticut are voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Regulations and funding for charter schools is voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Putting the COO of Fuse/Jumoke on the State Board of Education is inappropriate and wrong.

But wait just a second; on Wednesday she was given a letter from the Office of State Ethics saying that she doesn’t have a “conflict of interest.”

How is that possible?

Because it turns out that according to the Office of State Ethics, the Ethics Code defines the term “Business with which…associated” as “an entity of which you are one of the following: director, officer (i.e., president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer), owner, limited or general partner…”

Despite the fact that she has come before the legislature to call for more funding for charter schools, in general, and Jumoke Academy in particular;

Despite the fact that her job is to expand the number of Jumoke Charter School;

Despite she clearly has a real and perceived conflict of interest;

According to the Ethics Commission’s regulations, as COO, instead of “president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer” she isn’t prohibited from serving on the State Board of Education.

What an amazing travesty of justice.

If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quakes like a duck…

And perhaps most shocking of all is why Governor Malloy thinks this appointment is okay.  Even if it doesn’t violate the absolute “letter of the law,” it so flagrantly violates the spirit of Connecticut law that it is an insult to everyone who believes in open, honest and transparent government.

Hartford Board of Education adopts illegal contract with FUSE/Jumoke Academy, Inc.

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.

Yet another charter school lobby group comes to Connecticut

Lured by Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts and the prospect of easier access to taxpayer funds, the NEW YORK CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION is expanding into Connecticut.

According to a press release issued in Albany, New York, “The New York State Charter Schools Association (NYCSA) today announced that it is growing into a regional organization with the new inclusion of charter schools in Connecticut.”

The release stated that with the “agreement and support of the Connecticut Charter Schools Network (CCSN),” the new expanded association will represent the owners of over 200 charter schools in the two states.

Considering Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, co-founded Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company with twenty schools in  New York and Connecticut, it was probably only a matter of time before the charter school industry engaged in a more regional approach to push their charter school agenda and to push for more charter school funding.

Since Pryor took over as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, Achievement First, Inc., has expanded their programs in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.

While state funding for local public schools in Connecticut has remained relatively constant since 2008, funding for charter schools has been one of the fastest growing areas of the entire state budget.

In fact, despite the colossal budget deficit, Pryor and the State Board of Education recently announced a new initiative to add four more charter schools in Hartford and rumors abound that charter school advocates are trying to get additional state funding for charter schools in Bridgeport, Windham and elsewhere.

Michael Sharpe, who works as the Chief Executive Officer of the Jumoke Academy Charter School in Hartford and the President of Connecticut’s Charter School Network, will now be joining the board of directors of New York’s expanded charter school association.

Although Sharpe’s Jumoke Academy has never served bi-lingual students and only takes a small percentage of special educations students compared to the number served in Hartford’s public schools, Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and the City of Hartford’s Board of Education recently transferred Hartford’s Milner elementary school, with all of its students and taxpayer funds, to Jumoke.

Now the Jumoke Academy at Milner, a school in which almost 50 percent of the students go home to households who speak a language other than English is being run by a company that has never had a Spanish-speaking student.

Meanwhile, the press release quoted the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), which was founded by Achievement First’s Jonathan Sackler [the same Jonathan Sackler who held a $40,000 fundraiser last May for the political action committee affiliated with Governor Malloy] as saying,  “We welcome [the New York charter school association] and look forward to working with the Network to further ensure that the voices of communities, families and students who demand more quality public school choices are heard loud and clear in Connecticut.”

As if to reiterate the close relationship between Governor Malloy and the charter school industry, the press release concluded with the statement that, “the new organization was also a response to the education reform initiatives pushed last winter and spring by CT Gov. Daniel P. Malloy.”

‘De facto’ discrimination in Connecticut: Where is the outrage?

What if it became clear that a public school in Connecticut wouldn’t accept many African American children or children from single parent households or children who come from households with same sex parents?

There would be outrage, demonstrations would be held and politicians would act to put an end to the “de facto” discrimination that was taking place in our state.

“De facto” discrimination is where the discriminatory practice isn’t built into the law, but into the practices of government, an organization or society.  While the law doesn’t require the discrimination, the discrimination exists nonetheless.

The Jim Crow laws were an example of legal (de jure) discrimination.  The segregation and discrimination that continued after those laws were repealed by the 1964 Civil Rights act were proof that de facto discrimination continued long after those discriminatory laws were eliminated.

Here in Connecticut, local public schools MUST provide services to any child who is a resident of that community.  They cannot discriminate.  (Town borders may create de facto discrimination, but within the town, discrimination is not allowed)

But Connecticut’s charter schools, despite the fact that they also use taxpayer funds, end up with a very select student body.

Connecticut’s charter schools are a very real example that de facto discrimination is taking place right here in our state.  Yet, most of our public officials remain silent about this vital issue.

Take at a look at the data

Hartford vs. Charter Schools:  Servicing students who are not fluent in the English language:

  Hartford Public Schools Jumoke Academy Achievement First – Hartford
2009-2010 18% 0% 4.8%
2008-2009 14% 0% 0%
2007-2008 17% 0%  
2006-2007 17% 0%  

 

Hartford vs. Charter Schools:  Servicing students who go home to households where English in not the primary language:

  Hartford Public Schools Jumoke Academy Achievement First – Hartford
2009-2010 43% 0% 4.8%
2008-2009 43% 0% 0%
2007-2008 45% 0%  
2006-2007 46% 0%  

 

Hartford vs. Charter Schools:  Servicing students who have disabilities that require special education services:

  Hartford Public Schools Jumoke Academy Achievement First – Hartford
2009-2010 13% 2.3% 7.5%
2008-2009 13% 2.9% 6.5%
2007-2008 13% 4.1%  
2006-2007 14% 1.5%  

 

The data speaks for itself.

It is not complex, but it is shocking and disturbing.

The state of Connecticut, with help from the City of Hartford, is pushing to successfully expand the role of Jumoke Academy and Achievement First – Hartford, yet those two institutions utilize practices that lead to clear “de facto” discrimination against children who don’t speak English, children who go home to households in which English is not the primary language and children who require special education services.

When it comes to the use of public funds, the law and our morality as Americans make discrimination – whether in law or practice – whether “de jure” or “de facto,” totally unacceptable.

So where is the outrage?

Why do the Governor and Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, along with factions on the State Board of Education and the Hartford Board of Education go unchallenged when the policies they are pushing create clear cut and concise discrimination?

However you explain it, it is an outrage and it must be stopped.

Gates Foundation and carrion fly into Hartford as part of public education privatization effort

The Hartford Business Journal headline read, “$5M for Hartford schools,” while the Hartford Courant claimed, “Hartford Schools To Receive $5 Million From Gates Foundation.”

A reasonable person might actually think that Hartford’s schools were getting $5 million.

But actually, only about $1.5 million is going to the Hartford Public Schools System!

Most of the rest is going to the Jumoke Academy and Achievement First, Inc.

The purpose of the funds is to expand Jumoke and Achievement First and train Hartford’s administrators and teachers to follow the Jumoke and Achievement First models.

Yet Jumoke Academy, the charter school that recently took over Hartford’s Milner Elementary School, has never had a bi-lingual student attend their charter school.

While Jumoke Academy’s commitment to bi-lingual and special education students is non-existent, Achievement First – Hartford, the other major beneficiary of this $5 million, is nearly as bad.

Achievement First, Inc. is Connecticut’s largest charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

While one in five Hartford students qualify as England Language Learners, less than 5 percent of the  students at Achievement First –Hartford face language barriers and the percent of special education students at Achievement First – Hartford is half of what the Hartford public schools have.

In a city in which over 40 percent of students go home to households that don’t speak English as their primary language and students come to school speaking 70 different languages, Achievement First reports that less than 5 percent of its students go home to non-English speaking households and students come from backgrounds speaking only 4 different languages.

Meanwhile, rather than have the funds flow through the Hartford Board of Education, where there would be greater transparency and an opportunity for greater parental input, the money is flowing through the Greater Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and that group is taking $150,000 off the top to cover some of their expenses.

Although Malloy, Pryor and Hartford’s Mayor were all at the announcement, not one spoke about the need for greater public input, the public’s right to more information or the dismal record Jumoke Academy and Achievement First, Inc. have when it comes to reaching English Language Learners and special education students.

There is so much to this story that the media didn’t cover.

For starters, take a look at the new post at the Real Hartford blog: http://www.realhartford.org/2012/12/05/the-5m-question/

And then check back here at Wait, What?

The bottom line is that in their ongoing commitment to privatize public education, Governor Malloy, Education Commission Pryor and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra have all managed to sell out the people of Hartford and the taxpayers of Connecticut, yet again.

Malloy visits Jumoke Academy at Milner today

Long before Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill passed, the Malloy Administration, Hartford Superintendent of Schools Christina Kishimoto and the Jumoke Academy had been scheming to hand over Hartford’s Thurman Milner School to the Jumoke Academy.

Along with the transfer of the school comes millions and millions of public funds.

At noon today, October 19, 2012, Governor Malloy will be visiting the Jumoke Academy at Milner.  The report is that the Governor, along with Stefan Pryor, his Commissioner of Education, will be visiting each of the “Commissioner’s Network Schools to engage with key stakeholders around the progress of the turnaround plan.”

Of all the absurd and devastating elements of Malloy’s education reform and privatization activities, none is more outrageous than what has occurred to the students, parents and teachers of the Milner School.

Months after this process began, money is being funneled to the Jumoke Academy and yet there is no contract or memorandum of agreement between the State of Connecticut, the City of Hartford and the Jumoke Academy to ensure that Jumoke fulfills its obligations to Milner’s students and their families.

Connecticut law forbids the transfer of state funds without some type of contract, yet millions of dollars are being provided to the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, the company that runs the Jumoke Academy.

Yet no bid process took place.

No sole-source contract slipped through.

No Memorandum of Understanding was developed and signed to ensure taxpayer funds are being spent properly.

Here at Wait, What? we’ve reviewed the facts about Milner and Jumoke a number of times.

The proposal that Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and the City of Hartford used as the basis for their plan to give the Milner School to Jumoke began with the following statement;

Hartford Public Schools proposes to partner with Jumoke Academy, beginning with the upcoming 2012-13 academic year, to replicate systematically at Milner Elementary the comprehensive education strategy developed and implemented successfully at Jumoke Academy…Jumoke’ s comprehensive approach has proven remarkably successful in educating PK-Grade 8 students whose circumstances closely mirror those of the children who currently attend Milner.

Public officials handed the Milner School over to the Jumoke Academy because, they say, Jumoke is succeeding with students “whose circumstances closely mirror those of the children who currently attend Milner.”

As we’ve noted before, that statement is an outright lie.

The student body at Jumoke and Milner DO NOT “closely mirror” each other, and there is no indication that Jumoke is prepared or capable of transferring its “education philosophy” to a school whose student body is very different.

The Commissioner and every one of those officials know that the three factors that influence test scores the most are poverty, language barriers and the number of students who have disabilities that require special education services.

Milner is a school in which 1 in 4 students are not fluent in English, 40 percent of students go home to households that don’t speak English and more than 1 in 10 students require special education services.

Instead of working with people who are experts in these key areas, the State and City have given Milner to a company that has NO experience educating Latino students and virtually no experience helping students who need special education services.

Here are the facts:

Percent of students who are not fluent in English:

Jumoke:           0% not fluent in English

Milner:             25% of the students are not fluent in English

Percent of students who go home to households in which English is not the spoken language:

Jumoke            0%

Milner              40% go home to households where English is not spoken.

Percent of students who require special education services:

Jumoke            2% require special education services

Milner              11% require special education services

Even worse, for years, public officials have underfunded the educational program at the Milner School.

But when it was announced that Jumoke, a private company was taking over the school, the City of Hartford “found” $2 million and Congressman John Larson recently announced a grant for another $100,000.

The actions taken by the Governor, the Commissioner and Hartford’s Superintendent are beyond insulting.

They have completely and totally failed to address the fact that although 25 percent of Milner’s students are not fluent in English and 40 percent come from homes where English is not the spoken language; the Jumoke Academy has NEVER accepted any Latino students and HAS NO experience with bilingual education or working with parents who aren’t fluent in English.

The same situation exists when it comes to students needing special education services.

Yet there is no contract or agreement that lays out how Jumoke is going to address these vitally important students.

So, if anyone happens to see Governor Malloy or Commissioner Pryor;

Ask them;

How are you legally paying Jumoke and where are the legal documents that ensure the students are getting the services they need and the taxpayers are getting what we’re paying for.

Hartford’s Milner School debacle gets attention across Connecticut

“Connecticut’s May 2012 education reform law provides for state intervention to implement “turnaround plans” in the neediest schools. Hartford’s Milner School was among the state’s first targets.

The reformers’ solution was to help Milner School by simply handing it over to the Jumoke Academy, a private charter school operator.

In support of the move, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, a founder of the Achievement First charter franchise, declared that having Jumoke take over a public school was “an important transition in the charter school movement.

The comment indicates that some reformers apparently believe that expanding charter schools is more important than addressing children’s needs.”

Wendy Lecker, a columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and one of the leading forces behind the Connecticut chapter of Parents Across America has a must read commentary piece on the Milner School issue.  You can read  Wendy’s article here:  Helping Kids Or Helping Charter Schools.

Wait, What? readers already know the story about Hartford’s Milner School’s

  • A quarter of the students are English Language Learners (ELL) (that is they are not fluent in English)
  • 38.7 percent come from homes where English is not the primary language
  • 11.3 percent are students with disabilities.

Back in 2008, Steven Adamowski, then Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, and now Malloy’s “Special Master” for Windham and New London’s schools, implemented a “Turnaround Plan” for the Milner School.  But Adamowski and his team never made the investment of resources that were needed to really help the Milner School.

So now, the school in which 1 in 4 four students aren’t fluent in English, 4 in 10 go home to households where English is not the primary language and more than 1 in 10 have disabilities that require special education services, remains a “low-performing” school when it comes to standardized test scores.

Along comes “Turnaround Plan” #2.

This time Hartford’s present Superintendent of Schools, along with Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and the State Board of Education, have decided to give the school, its students and its entire budget over to the Jumoke Academy, a charter school in Hartford that has never had a student who wasn’t fluent in English and has never had a student who went home to a household where English wasn’t the primary language.

In addition, despite state and federal laws making it illegal to discriminate against students who require special education services, only 2 percent of Jumoke Academy’s students have special education needs.

Wendy Lecker’s piece goes on to reveal the strange and disturbing politics behind the effort to give the Milner School to the Jumoke Academy.

Later in the day, Diane Ravitch, the country’s leading voice for public education, picked up Wendy’s commentary piece and posted it to her blog.  You can Diane’s perspective here:  http://dianeravitch.net/2012/09/23/charters-riding-high-in-ct/

It makes it very clear that Stefan Pryor’s long-standing relationship with charter schools is helping drive Governor Malloy’s policy of giving scarce taxpayer funds to charter schools at the expense of the local public district schools that need and deserve those resources.

Milner School given to Jumoke Academy: When Does Lying Become Criminal…?

And what if the thing you are lying about hurts the future of children.

One of the issues surrounding the Chicago Teacher’s strike is Mayor Emanuel Rahm’s plan to turn a number of public schools over to charter school management companies.

Governor Malloy’s administration is engaged in a similar strategy here.

In August, as part of his “turnaround” strategy, Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, proposed a plan to hand over the Milner School, which is part of the Hartford Public School System, to Jumoke Academy, a charter school.

The Connecticut State Board of Education approved a plan.  Their rational was that, since the Jumoke Academy gets better test scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test, they would do a better job than the Hartford School System has been doing.  The “new” school is now being referred to as Jumoke Academy at the Milner School.

The proposal that Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education used as the basis for their plan began with the following statement;

“As evidenced by several years of student performance data, Milner Elementary School is one of the lowest performing elementary schools in Hartford and Connecticut. HPS [Hartford Public Schools] proposes to partner with Jumoke Academy, beginning with the upcoming 2012-13 academic year, to replicate systematically at Milner Elementary the comprehensive education strategy developed and implemented successfully at Jumoke Academy…”

The document went on to say, “Jumoke’s comprehensive approach has proven remarkably successful in educating PK-Grade 8 students whose circumstances closely mirror those of the children who currently attend Milner.”

So the Commissioner of Education, the State Board of Education and the superintendent of schools in Hartford are handing the Milner School over to the Jumoke Academy because, they say, Jumoke is succeeding with students “whose circumstances closely mirror those of the children who currently attend Milner” but Jumoke’s education style is working where Milner’s is not.

That statement is an outright lie.

The student body at Jumoke and Milner DO NOT “closely mirror” each other, and there is no indication that Jumoke is prepared or capable of transferring its “education philosophy” to school whose student body is very different.

The Commissioner and every one of those Board members know that the three factors that influence test scores the most are poverty, language barriers and the number of students who have disabilities that require special education services.

When it comes to Jumoke’s takeover of the Milner School, the most disturbing thing of all is that the negative impact will fall most heavily on Hispanic students and those who need special education services.

When it comes to the differences between the two schools, take for example, the percent of students who are not fluent in English:

Jumoke:           0% not fluent in English

Milner              19.6% of the students are not fluent in English

The percent of students who require need special education services:

Jumoke            2.3% require special education services

Milner              11.3% require special education services

The percent of students who go home to households in which English is not the spoken language:

Jumoke            0%

Milner              38.7% go home to households where English is not spoken.

In fact, the populations of these two schools have traditionally been very different.

Percent of Students who are not fluent in English.

  Jumoke Milner
2009-2010 0% 19.6%
2008-2009 0% 12.2%
2007-2008 0% 12.5%
2006-2007 0% 9.6%
2005-2006 0% 5%
2004-2005 0% 7%

 

Percent of students who go home to households where English is not the spoken language.

  Jumoke Milner
2009-2010 0% 39%
2008-2009 0% 30%
2007-2008 0% 32%
2006-2007 0% 22%
2005-2006 0% 21%
2004-2005 0% 20%

 

Percent of students who require special education services

  Jumoke Milner
2009-2010 2.3% 11.3%
2008-2009 2.9% 12.5%
2007-2008 4.1% 13.3%
2006-2007 1.5% 15.3%
2005-2006 1.7% 19.3%
2004-2005 3.4% 14%

The data could not be clearer.

Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education voted to hand over a Hartford school to a charter school operator who has no experience with bilingual students AND no experience with students who come from households in which English is not the primary language.  (Jumoke claims their success is due to greater parent engagement, and yet their plan makes no effort to institute a program to engage parents who don’t speak English.)

And equally shocking is that Jumoke’s experience with students whose disabilities require special education services are virtually non-existent.

Yet Jumoke is taking over a school in which more than one out of ten students needs extra services due to their disabilities.

In a meeting with parents, Jumoke Academy’s CEO, Dr. Sharpe, explained that all special needs children will be served at the new “Jumoke Academy at Milner School.”

As reported by Achieve Hartford, a corporate funded, pro-education reform group, the head of Jumoke Academy explained that he was able to reduce the number of special education students from a 14 percent proportion of the student body down to a level of only 4 percent of the students.

How did Jumoke “reduce” the number of students needing special education services?

Jumoke claimed it was the “preventive actions” they take.

He explained, seeing Kindergarten children arriving with deficits, Jumoke started a Pre-K program, it has hired teachers, social workers, and therapists trained and dedicated to addressing special needs, and it does not over-identify students as having disabilities.

Apparently Jumoke’s ability to drop the number of students needing special services is to intervene at the Pre-K level and “cure” the students whose disabilities require additional services.  Plus, he claims, his school doesn’t “over-identify” students as having disabilities.

To claim that he “cures” students at the Pre-K level, students who then no longer need special education services, is absurd and insulting.

Furthermore, to suggest that his screening process identifies fewer students who need services suggests that he is not using the criteria that are required by federal law, an action that would be illegal.

State Officials decided to given the Milner School to a charter school management company, and they did it, they say, because the students are so similar.  That is simply a lie.

Jumoke has NO EXPERIENCE with bilingual education and VIRTUALLY NO EXPERIENCE with providing special educations services.

And Jumoke’s explanation for the lack of experience with students with disabilities is either a lie or they are breaking the law.

So once again, when does lying become criminal?

And why is the State Department of Education pushing this outrageous plan.