Steve Perry’s taxpayer subsidized “Education Truth Tour”

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

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

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

The week after that it is Indianapolis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Steve Perry announces Capital Prep will have “sister status” with his privately owned charter schools

When Steve Perry, who serves as the principal of Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet School Principal and is a full-time Hartford employee, submitted his application to the New York Board of Regents to open a new charter school in Harlem that would be owned and operated by his private charter school management company, Perry not only claimed that he controlled Hartford’s public school but that his business plan included receiving significant income from running Hartford’s Capital Prep.

The New York Board of Regents requires applicants to provide a corporate financial plan to ensure potential charter school operators have the financial resources to maintain their commitments concerning proposed new charter schools.

As part of his application to the New York Board of Regents for the proposed Harlem Capital Prep Charter School, Perry wrote;

“FINANCIAL PLAN – Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.”

But of course, Perry’s private company has no contract to manage Capital Prep, let alone collect “excess management fees” from the Hartford Board of Education.

According to various sources knowledgeable about Perry’s backroom deals, when Hartford’s superintendent baulked at the notion of handing Capital Prep over to Perry’s private company, Perry proposed that he would “manage” Hartford ‘s Capital Prep for a token $1 a year.

If Perry’s offer was genuine and he intended to forgo the millions in management fees that he originally reported  for running Hartford’s Capital Prep,  then he was in direct violation of the plan he submitted to the New York Board of Regents.

Yet there is no evidence that he ever informed the New York Board of Regents that the financial plan he has submitted with his official application was no longer valid.

Alternatively, the $1 a year offer was nothing but a ruse and Perry still intended to collect millions of dollars from Hartford in the form of management fees and/or salaries for members of his company.  Nine of the ten top members of his private charter school management company are full-time administrators and teachers at Capital Prep Magnet School, making them full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education.

Regardless of whether Perry was lying to the New York Board of Regents, earlier this week, Hartford Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez issued a letter to “Parents, Guardians and the staff of Capital Preparatory School that Principal Perry would be leaving at the end of the school year and a new Capital Prep principal would be selected utilizing Hartford Board of Education procedures and policies.

However, less than forty-eight hours later, Steve Perry had his own announcement for Capital Prep parents informing them that he and Hartford’s superintendent had developed a plan that, “will establish “sister schools” between Capital Prep and our new schools,” and that Perry himself would be playing a primary role in the selection of Capital Prep Magnet School’s new principal

Perry added in his letter to parents that his strategy “will ensure that students, parents and staff from each of the schools can collaborate for the betterment of all children. Together we will create the professional learning community that so many of us wanted.”

Perry’s announcement is silent on the financial deal between Perry’s private company and the Hartford Board of Education.

However, the charter school application approved by the New York Board of Regents continues to be based on Perry collecting millions of dollars in management fees from all three of “his schools,” which he lists as Hartford’s Capital Prep and his proposed charter schools in Bridgeport and Harlem Charter schools.

While Perry presents the situation as a “done deal,”  it is extremely unclear as to what authority Hartford’s superintendent of schools would have to cut such a deal with Perry and why the Hartford Board of education has not been informed of  Perry agreement with the superintendent nor has the board voted on this vague and  inappropriate scheme.

The one thing that is clear is that Mr. Perry’s sworn application to the New York Board of Regents, an application that the Regents used to approve his plan to open a charter school in Harlem, claims that Perry controls and will continue to control Hartford’s public school.

Perry’s New York application states,

“CPS [Perry’s private charter school management company] is designed to be a fiscally fit “boutique” charter management organization (“CMO”) ….Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools.”

“Our anticipated enrollment across all four CPS network schools is approximately 2,500 students between 2015 and 2020. Capital Prep Hartford has 700 students.”

“Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.”

Rather than investigate and confront the serious legal and financial issues raised by Mr. Perry’s claims, with this supposed agreement in place the Hartford Superintendent and Board of Education appear to have thrown in their lot with Perry , thus becoming co-conspirators in an effort to walk away from their fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens of Hartford and Connecticut.

Perry’s New York City charter school application generates requests for investigations

To:

New York Board of Regents
General Counsel, Board of Regents
Office of Audit Services, Board of Regents
 
New York Attorney General Eric Scneiderman
New York Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapol
 
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio 
NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer
NYC Public Advocate Letitia James

 

Re:  Request for investigation into the New York Board of Regent’s recent approval of Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School

Earlier this month, the New York Board of Regents moved to approve a charter school application from Steve Perry, a principal of a public school in Connecticut who has formed a charter school management company in the hopes of opening up charter schools in the greater New York City region.

Although the Board of Regents’ Education Committee approved the charter school application submitted by Mr. Perry, he does not own the concepts, materials and intellectual property contained in that application.  Instead they belong to the Hartford, Connecticut Board of Education.

At their November meeting, the P-12 Education Committee of the New York Board of Regents, upon the recommendation of Commissioner John B. King, Jr and the staff of the New York State Department of Education, voted to approve the application for the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School.

In the memo to the P-12 Committee, Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. wrote, “The Commissioner and Department staff recommend that the Board of Regents consider, approve and issue initial charters and provisional charters for the following four new charter schools.”  The list included Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School.

The memo added, “In New York City, Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School, proposed as a replication of an effective magnet school in Connecticut, will partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem to provide middle- and high-school students with a rigorous, year-round college preparatory curriculum”  and recommended, “VOTED: That the Regents find that the proposed charter school: (1) meets the requirements set out in Article 56 of the Education Law, and all other applicable laws, rules and regulations; (2) will operate in an educationally and fiscally sound manner; (3) is likely to improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty of Article 56 of the Education Law; and (4) will have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the charter school, and the Board of Regents therefore approves and issues a charter and provisional charter to the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School for a term of five years in accordance with §2851(2)(p) of the Education Law.”  See: http://www.regents.nysed.gov/meetings/2014/November2014/1114p12a3.pdf.

However, either the Commissioner, staff and Regent’s Committee were unaware that Mr. Perry and his fellow charter school applicants do not own the concepts, materials or intellectual property that they claim or the Commissioner, staff and Committee was aware of this issue and are intentionally engaging in what appear to be Mr, Perry’s criminal violation of copyrighted material owned by the Hartford, Connecticut Board of Education.

For background, the application to open the Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School was submitted by Steve Perry and his private company, Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc.

Steve Perry is a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education and serves as the principal of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Magnet School, a public school owned and operated by the Hartford Board of Education and located on Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut.  The public school is funded by federal, state and local funds.

In 2012, Mr. Perry created a Connecticut company which he named “Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc.”

When forming the corporation, Mr. Perry filed with the Connecticut Secretary of the State that his company was located at his residence in Middletown, Connecticut.  However, for purposes of the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Perry, until recently, has been using the address of the public school in which he works.

The charter school application submitted to the New York Board of Regents by Mr. Perry and his associates can be found here: Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School Application

Throughout the application, and in the hearings, meetings and communications associated with his attempt to get garner approval from the New York Board of Regents for his Harlem charter school application, Mr. Perry consistently claimed that he and his company own the concepts, materials and intellectual property associated with the Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford and have the legal right to “replicate” that school in New York using materials created for the Connecticut public school.

However, neither Steve Perry nor his private company has any legal right to those concepts, materials or intellectual property.

Since Steve Perry and his associates are full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education, the copyright laws are extremely clear.  Concepts, materials and intellectual property created by employees of a school district are the sole property of the school district.

Even the Hartford Board of Education’s own policies specifically address the issue by stating,

‘Materials created by staff at the instigation and/or direction of superiors and/or during work-time shall be considered “work made for hire” under Sections 201(b) and 101 of the Copyright Act and shall be solely the property of the school district.”

Mr. Perry and his company are seeking to use copyrighted materials for personal gain, which of course, is an extremely serious and potentially criminal offense.  According to federal law, “A commercially motivated infringer can receive up to a five-year federal prison term and $250,000 in fines.  (17 U.S.C. § 506(a)), 18 U.S.C. § 2319)

Mr. Perry’s application to open a charter school in Harlem contains numerous claims that he is basing his work plan on concepts, materials and intellectual property that he does not own or have the right to utilize.

For example, Perry and his team write;

“The founders of Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School (“Capital Prep Harlem”) seek the opportunity to replicate our successful flagship school, the Capital Preparatory Magnet School – Hartford, CT (“Capital Prep”), in New York City’s Community School District 5”  (Page 2 of the pdf submitted to the New York Board of Regents.)

“CPS will support Capital Prep Harlem through its oversight of the principal, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, and its overall monitoring of fidelity to the Capital Prep model.  CPS will also utilize its two other schools in Bridgeport and Hartford to provide professional development and to share resources. The three schools will act as a ‘boutique’ network in which faculty, staff, parents and students participate in academic and social exchanges. (Page 4 of pdf)

“Capital Prep’s curriculum is being replicated in the form of the Capital Prep Harlem charter. It is a unique curriculum that has been created by the founders of Capital Prep in Hartford and will be implemented, monitored and measured by CPS. (Page 21 of pdf)

Capital Prep Harlem’s program and curriculum designs are based on the internationally recognized, research-based model developed by the founders of Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. (CPS) and implemented over the past ten years at Capital Prep in Hartford, Connecticut…

‘Over the past two years, members of Capital Prep Harlem’s founding group have formally collaborated on this proposal through regular meetings and ongoing interim communications.  CPS enlisted its founders, current teachers at Capital Prep in Hartford, and strategic consultants to codify the mission, vision and key design elements of the Capital Prep model and operationalize the educational philosophy of the school in order to facilitate replication and training.’ (Page 42 of the pdf)

Attachment 6a: CMO Information – “CPS is designed to be a fiscally fit “boutique” charter management organization (“CMO”) ….Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools. It is our hope that we will manage two schools in Harlem. The first is to be Capital Prep Harlem, 6-12. The second would be a kindergarten to 5th grade school in or near the first in CSD 5. Managing four schools in three cities that are within a two–hour drive of each other allows us to support the schools without having to hire completely new staff for each school.

Our anticipated enrollment across all four CPS network schools is approximately 2,500 students between 2015 and 2020. Capital Prep Hartford has 700 students. The Capital Preparatory Harbor School in Bridgeport Connecticut will have 765 students at full enrollment. Capital Prep Harlem will have 600 students in the next five years, and we hope to open a companion kindergarten to fifth grade school in Harlem that will serve another 600 students. (Page 180 of pdf)

Ten founding group members from Capital Prep came together to launch CPS as the school management organization to lead replication of the Capital Prep model. Each founding member brought a unique background and set of skills to the process. (Page 180 of pdf)

Founding members of the charter management company are then listed. Nine of ten are full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education.  The management team of the charter management company is also listed, with two of three serving as full-time employees of the Hartford Board of Education (Page 183 of pdf)

FINANCIAL PLAN – Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.

We are focused on running a right-sized CMO. Operating within a small geographic region affords us the opportunity to create efficiencies that will ensure that CPS staff can effectively support all three schools and the students therein.” (Page 188 of pdf)

In addition to the significant copyright infringement issues, it would appear that Mr. Perry and his associates have also tried to mislead the New York Board of Regents into believing that Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc. (Perry’s CMO) owns and operate other schools including Capital Prep in Hartford Connecticut.

Note above, the wording from the application,

“CPS is designed to be a fiscally fit “boutique” charter management organization (“CMO”) ….Geographic clustering will allow us to stay small yet generate the revenue necessary to effectively maintain a CMO. Hartford, Bridgeport and Harlem are the three cities in which we have decided to manage schools.”

“Our anticipated enrollment across all four CPS network schools is approximately 2,500 students between 2015 and 2020. Capital Prep Hartford has 700 students.”

“Surpluses are projected in each year beginning in 2015. The annual ending cash balance per year for CPS will be just over $500,000 in management fees collected. Conservative five year estimates have our year end cash balance at $2 million by year five between Hartford, Bridgeport and our Harlem 6 to 12 school.”

But the truth is that Mr. Perry does not own Hartford’s Capital Prep Magnet nor does his private company have ownership interest or management control of the Hartford, Connecticut public school,

His suggestion that Capital Prep is part of CPS (“Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc.”) or that it is part of his “boutique” charter management organization (“CMO”) is nothing short of an outright lie.

Furthermore, while Mr. Perry’s private company has received approval from the Connecticut State Board of Education to open a charter school in Bridgeport, Connecticut this coming fall, there is no money in the state budget allocated for that school and Connecticut is facing a projected $1.4 billion deficit, making it unlikely the any funding will be available for his proposed charter school.

Despite Mr. Perry’s claim, his charter management company does not manage any schools.

The application submitted to the New York Board of Regents by Steve Perry and his private company, Capital Preparatory Schools, Inc., raises extremely serious legal and ethical issues.

The fact that the Regents’ P-12 Education Committee approved the application means the Commissioner, his staff and Committee members were either unaware of these issues or chose to overlook them.

In either case, a full and complete investigation into Mr. Perry and the Board of Regent’s action is needed, followed by any appropriate legal action to ensure that federal, state and local laws are upheld.

Please accept this document as a request for a full and complete investigation by your office.

Jonathan Pelto
Storrs, Connecticut
[email protected]
860-428-2823