Another Charter School Front Group – More apparent ethics law violations (Re-post)

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Here we go again… Yet another faux education advocacy group appears unwilling or unable to follow Connecticut’s ethics laws.

The number of corporate funded education reform and charter school front groups in Connecticut is popping up faster than the buds appear during a warm spring week and these groups seem virtually incapable of adhering to Connecticut’s ethics and lobbying laws.

You may need to read this post a few times to follow the bouncing ball…

It was just a few weeks ago that CT News Junkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman wrote a scathing column on the ethics problems associated with the New York based corporate education reform industry group called Families for Excellent Schools and its subsidiary, and entity called the Coalition for Every Child.

In the piece entitled, Are Charter Advocacy Groups Skirting CT Ethics Laws?, Darer Littman laid out the facts surrounding the Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child controversy.

The well-financed charter school advocacy group is the organization that is paying for the television ads promoting Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed state budget that makes historic cuts to public education while dramatically increasing funding for charter schools.

The group was also one of the sponsors of this week’s pro-charter school rally at the State Capitol that featured Malloy.

As the Hartford Courant reported, charter school students and parents were bused in to Hartford from as far away as Boston and New York City in an attempt to persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more money so that Steve Perry could open a charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx charter school chain could open up a charter school in Stamford.

As Sarah Darer Littman explained, not only had Families for Excellent Schools run into ethics issues in New York, but they were failing to report activities and expenditures here in Connecticut.

Now it looks like another new charter school advocacy group called “FaithActs for Education” is failing to report its lobbying related activities as required under state law – violations that should be met with thousands of dollars in fines.

Although FaithActs for Education was rolled out on February 15, 2015 in a well-scripted press conference featuring Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and a number of Bridgeport ministers, the corporation called FaithActs for Education was actually formed in October 2014.

As the Connecticut Post reported in February, “With the public backing of Mayor Bill Finch, a faith-based education advocacy group, FaithActs for Education, conducted its first meeting on Monday declaring a dedication ‘to improving education for all children in Bridgeport, no matter what type of school they attend.’”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who participated in the event said,

“We know where we are and where we need to go. FaithActs for Education will help us to become even more of a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to supporting Governor Malloy’s education reform agenda and Mayor Bill Finch, as he faces a difficult re-election campaign, FaithActs for Education’s immediate work has been to support Steve Perry’s plan to open a publicly funded, but privately owned and operated charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a press release issued by FaithActs for Education, the entity is led by,

  • Reverend William McCullough, Pastor, Russell Temple CME Church
  • Bishop John P. Diamond, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Faith,
  • Reverend Janene Hawkins, Pastor, Walters Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church,
  • Reverend Carl McCluster, Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church,
  • Reverend Cass Shaw, President & CEO, Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport,
  • Reverend Jeremy L. Williams, Pastor, West End Tabernacle CME Church.
  • In addition, the infamous Reverend Kenneth Moales, Pastor, Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is also playing a role with the group.

The organization’s chairman, Reverend McCullough, along with Reverend Moales and Reverend McCluster are all listed as original members of the Governing Council of Steve Perry’s new charter school in Bridgeport and all have been engaged in lobbying the State Board of Education and the General Assembly on Perry’s behalf.

Although we’re led to believe that FaithActs for Education is a homegrown group of religious leaders working to promote educational opportunities for all of Bridgeport’s children, the real story is very different.

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State, FaithActs for Education Inc. was created by Jamilah Prince-Stewart, who now serves as the entity’s Executive Director.

At the time of incorporation she served as the Director of Community Engagement for ConnCAN, Connecticut’s leading charter school lobby group.  In addition, FaithActs’ Director of Operations and Programs left her position as Special Projects Manager at ConnCAN to join the new advocacy group.

At the February 2015 press conference to roll out FaithActs for Education, both ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander and former ConnCAN CEO Alex Johnson were in attendance.

In addition to their lobbying work with ConnCAN, Alexander and Johnson were the individuals who formed A Better Connecticut, Inc. yet another education reform industry front group that spent more than $2 million on television ads during the year before the last gubernatorial election to “thank” Governor Malloy for his “leadership” on behalf of the corporate education reform agenda.

FaithActs’ initial press conference was orchestrated by the new group’s spokesman, Bob Bellafiore.

As public education advocate Maria Pereira noted at the time, Bellafiore is the founder of Stanhope Partners, an Albany PR firm that works for the charter school industry.

Before setting up his own company, he served as a Vice President of National Heritage Academies, a for-profit charter chain that owns and operates 75 charter schools in nine states, making it the third largest for-profit charter school company in the United States.

Just last year, National Heritage Academies made national news when it was discovered that it was charging one of its’ Brooklyn charter schools $2.3 million in rent per year even though it was leasing the property for much less.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, FaithActs for Education purports to be a, “grassroots organizing nonprofit based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We exist to help faith leaders and their congregations step outside their place of worship to advocate for improved educational opportunities for their own children and the children of Bridgeport.”

The organization’s rhetoric goes on to say that, “created as a 501(c)3 Foundation,” FaithActs receives funding from various foundations and individuals, although, to date, it has failed to reveal which foundations or individuals are underwriting the organization’s lobbying and advocacy activities.

FaithActs for Education also shares an address with Educators 4 Excellence, another corporate funded advocacy group that claims to speak for teachers who are opposed to tenure and other collective bargaining rights.  (See Wait, What? Post Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group)

But even if all of that wasn’t indicative enough of the power and inter-relationship of the corporate education reform industry, there is more….

According to the incorporation papers filed with the Secretary of the State’s Office, FaithActs for Education’s agent of service is its Executive Director, Jamilah Prince-Stewart.

However, rather than recording the organization’s actual physical office in Bridgeport for corporate related service issues, the official corporate filing lists the following;

FAITHACTS FOR EDUCATION,

C/O PUBLIC SQUARE PARTNERSHIP,

1730 COMMERCE DRIVE #706 SUITE C,

BRIDGEPORT, CT, 06605

Public Square Partnerships is a relatively new company whose agent of service is none-other-than Nate Snow, the Director of Teach for America’s Connecticut Chapter.  Snow also serves as President of Excel Bridgeport Inc., another Bridgeport based charter school advocacy group that had its own run-in with the Connecticut Ethics Commission when it failed to register with the Office of State Ethics despite the fact that it was lobbying state government in favor of Governor Malloy’s illegal takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

Excel Bridgeport, Inc., along with Steve Perry supporter, Reverend Kenneth Moales, were the biggest supporters of education reform guru Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s inappropriately certified superintendent who was forced to leave after two years.  Vallas being best known for “charterizing” the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans schools system before being recruited by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to “save” Bridgeport.

Although based in Bridgeport, Public Square Partnership not only lists TFA Director Nate Snow as its agent, but they use Teach for America’s New Haven office address as their official agent of service.

According to their website, Public Square Partnerships “focuses its investments on innovative change efforts that have attained tangible results for children attending schools in high-need communities or that have the potential to do so for sustainable and scalable impact.”

The company adds, “We partner with education organizations that develop educators, schools, and engage parents and community members in creating high-quality schools.”

Public Square Partnerships further reports that in its first year of operation, the company had contracts to help five schools in Bridgeport and New Haven, three of which were public schools and two were charter schools.

Among its clients, we are told, are the new Booker T. Washington Charter School Academy in New Haven and the Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport.

While Nate Snow serves as the Agent of Service for Public Square Partnerships, the President and CEO of the company is Diane Robinson who has spent the last twenty years working for the massive KIPP Charter School chain and Teacher for America.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer most recently worked as a Deputy Chief Portfolio Officer with the New York City Department of Education and before that was with the Washington DC Public Schools system.

The company’s third employee comes to Connecticut via the large education reform industry consulting firm called Schoolworks.

While more and more of the pieces of the puzzle come into view, the one thing that is absolutely clear is that there are a whole lot of organizations, spending a whole lot of money to further Governor Malloy’s pro-charter school, anti-public school and anti-teacher education reform agenda.

In the news again – Steve Perry’s point man in Bridgeport – The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

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The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is running for the Connecticut State Senate in a special election to be held on February 24 2015.  Moales is one of three candidates seeking to fill the open seat in Bridgeport.

Not only is Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. the notorious ally of Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, but Moales is the leading member of the “Governing Council” of Steve Perry’s proposed Harbor Prep Capital Charter School, the charter school that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and political appointees on the State Board of Education jammed through despite the fact that there is no funding in the state budget for Perry’s growing aspirations to  open a “boutique” Charter School Management Company.

Kenneth Moales Jr. was also a leading force on the illegal State Oversight Board that was appointed by the Malloy administration when the State of Connecticut illegally took over the Bridgeport School System.

Following the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision to restore the rule of law and the notion of democracy by returning Bridgeport’s Schools to an elected Board, Moales got onto the new elected Board of Education thanks to the help of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.  [Moales had served as Finch’s campaign treasurer in his run for mayor].

As a member of the elected Board, including a stint has its chairman; Moales continued to serve as Education Reform Guru Paul Vallas’ biggest cheerleader.

Moales also used his time on the Board to garner a $1 million, no-competitive bid contact, to expand his family’s state-funded daycare centers – daycare centers that rent space from the very church that Moales owns and operates.

The list of three day care centers included one – the largest – that was housed in a building that never had a certificate of occupancy or even met fire code.

The very same church that owns Moales’ house, and at last check, his Cadillac Escalade and a couple of Mercedes Benz sedans…

The very same church that has been facing foreclosure proceedings for over a year…

And now it turns out that Moales hasn’t even being paying his property taxes to the City of Bridgeport going all the way back to 2007.

The latest chapter in this charade comes via a breaking story on the “Only in Bridgeport” Blog entitled, “Moales’ Day Care Facility Owes $10,000 in Back Taxes, Joins DeJesus For Arrearage Battle,”

As the Only in Bridgeport Blog reports,

The campaign of State Senate candidate Ken Moales says they welcome the support of political activists turned off by the $140,000 that Democratic-endorsed Richard DeJesus owes in personal property taxes on businesses, as well as his child support issues. Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare for which Moales serves as chief executive officer owes $10,000 in personal property taxes going back to 2007, according to city tax records.

[…]

Moales, a member of the school board, has been a lightning rod in city politics in recent years, particularly when he served as head of the Board of Education. He served as Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer for Finch’s first two runs for mayor. But then tax and foreclosure issues about Moales surfaced. He no longer serves as Finch’s campaign treasurer as the mayor seeks a third four-year term this year.

City tax records show past-due personal property taxes for Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare going back to 2007 and rising.

For more go to: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/moales-day-care-facility-owes-10000-in-back-taxes-joins-dejesus-for-arrearage-battle/#more-68595

For lots, lots more on Moales and his inappropriate, often illegal antics, just search his name here on the Wait, What? Blog.

Bridgeport principal brought in by Jumoke’s “Dr.” Michael Sharpe arrested for first-degree larceny

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When Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education voted to hand Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School over to the FUSE/Jumoke charter school chain, the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe began by firing all but 4 of the school’s 19 teachers and hired Baton Rouge, Louisiana principal and “turnaround expert,” Marilyn Taylor, to serve as the principal of the Jumoke Academy at Dunbar.

Less than sixteen months later, Marilyn Taylor has now been charged with stealing more than $10,000 from Dunbar’s school’s fundraising account and spending the money gambling at casinos in Mississippi and Connecticut.

At an August 19, 2013 ceremony at the school, Bridgeport’s “superintendent” and corporate education reform industry guru Paul Vallas gushed about Jumoke and its holding company, The Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE).

Vallas, who was joined at the event by Commissioner Stefan Pryor told the assembled crowd, “The transformation will be extraordinary, because this group has done it in the past.”

According to a story in the CT Post as the time, Principal Marilyn Taylor took the microphone and using what is classic education reform rhetoric, added, “You are the parents of scholars now…Don’t let this be the only opportunity we see you.”

But while FUSE promised that their special education “model” would produce what Taylor called, “quick wins,” the results were anything but good for the school, its principal and the 15 new Jumoke at Dunbar teachers, eight of whom were Teach for America (TFA) recruits.

Earlier this year, before the Jumoke/FUSE organization collapsed in disgrace and its records were seized by the FBI, a Jumoke Academy at Dunbar official was quoted in another CT Post story telling that Bridgeport Board of Education that, “the management group they brought in to run the school this year — when Dunbar joined the Commissioner’s Network — are people who truly care about the students.”

The CT Post story explained that, “Being part of the state network means extra funding and state support in exchange for implementing changes meant to bring about a quick turnaround in school culture and test scores.”

At the time the Malloy administration and the Bridgeport Board of Education decided to hand the school over to Jumoke/FUSE, Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira, “cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she wondered what the district could accomplish on its own with the money.”

Then, only a few months later, the Hartford Courant broke that story that “Dr.” Michael Sharpe never received a doctorate and that, in fact, he had served a lengthy prison sentence for embezzling funds from a public agency in California.

Now Sharpe’s hand-picked principal, Marilyn Taylor, is out on bail after posting a $20,000 bond and Interim Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz has told the CT Post that, “Marilyn Taylor will not be returning to work as a principal in Bridgeport. I don’t want to say more at this point.”

Interestingly, Taylor has been out on paid administrative leave for the past six weeks and, according to the CT Post, “The alleged theft from a student activity account occurred in November 2013 and involved thousands of dollars generated from student fundraising, according to sources…at the time, Dunbar was being run by Family Schools for Urban Excellence.”

The news coverage of Taylor’s arrest fails to identify whether Taylor played any role in helping Jumoke/FUSE “win” an extremely lucrative contract to run up to three public schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  However, the contract with FUSE was later canceled by the Louisiana state authority that had originally signed the contract when Jumoke/FUSE collapsed.

Those issues are apparently among those that remain under investigation by the FBI.

And as for Stefan Pryor, the out-going Commissioner of Education, is concerned…a spokesperson for the Commissioner told the CT Post that the decision to remove Marilyn Taylor was “’a local decision’” and said she had no knowledge of whether it was related to the state’s probe into FUSE…”

Check back for updates on this breaking story.

You can trust us; we’re from the charter schools (Guest Post by Wendy Lecker)

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This truth about the charter school industry grows every day.  Today’s contribution can be found in an investigative story in the New York Times entitled, A Star-Powered School Sputters.  The article explores those associated with the charter school created by Dion Sanders, the pro-football, pro-baseball player turned charter school owner.

Here in Connecticut, we’ve become used to daily coverage of the failures associated with the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and the exploits of charter school champions such as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Steven Pryor, Capital Prep principal Steve Perry, corporate education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas  and the others who are pushing the charter school gravy train.

In today’s Guest Post, public school advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker responds to a recent pro-charter school commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post.

Wendy Lecker writes,

In an oped in the Connecticut Post on August 7, a board member of the Side by Side charter school in Norwalk, Anne Magee Dichele, complained that in the wake of the Jumoke scandal, and the revelations that state authorities exert little oversight over Connecticut charter schools, Connecticut charter schools are now forced to defend themselves to the public.  She pleaded that the public not judge all charters by the actions of those who break the law.

As a public school parent in an urban district, I see my district and districts like mine unfairly maligned on a regular basis, by state and national officials, by  the media and, of course by the charter school industry.  Public education has become everyone’s favorite punching bag and the excuse to do nothing about the glaring inequality in American society. So I feel little sympathy for a charter school operator who must defend her school.

However, I will give some unsolicited advice to this board member. If you do not want to be treated like other charter schools, do not engage in the same semantic sleights of hand your fellow charter operators love to use.

In her oped, Ms. Dichele proudly proclaims that her school uses an “open lottery” so all children “have an equal chance at coming to” her school.  Clearly, she is trying to create the impression that her school satisfied its duty to integrate. Perhaps Ms. Dichele is unfamiliar with the history of school segregation in our country and with the decades of evidence since the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.   So I will spell it out for her.  Open lotteries result in segregation.  Pure and simple.  In fact, open choice was used as a way of keeping southern schools segregated in the wake of the Brown decision.  And over fifty years of evidence since then proves that unfettered choice segregates schools.  The only way to achieve diversity in a choice system is to carefully design a controlled choice policy that consciously seeks diversity. In my district, Stamford, we abandoned an open lottery for our magnet schools years ago, as we found it that it increased segregation.  Stamford has a mandatory integration policy. When our schools fall out of balance, we redistrict.   Enrollment in our magnet schools is done through a lottery that consciously controls for demographics.   Our schools are integrated because we make the conscious effort to integrate, rather than blindly declaring that “all can attend.”

Ms. Dichele’s Side by Side charter school is a perfect example of how an open lottery works against diversity.  When you compare the demographics of Side by Side charter school to its host district, Norwalk, Side by Side has ten percent less poverty, half the percentage of English Language Learners and half the percentage of students with disabilities that Norwalk’s schools have.  Moreover, while state data show that Side by Side has zero percent teachers of color, Norwalk’s school district has 15.9%.

Side by Side charter has significantly fewer needy children than its host district—which brings me to Ms. Dichele’s other claim: that her school spends less than public schools.  Charter schools do not have to pay for transportation or special education services.  Public school districts have to pay for those services provided to the charter schools.  So, Norwalk is paying for the few special education students served at Side by Side, as well as their transportation- and Norwalk reports this payment as expenditure, even though Norwalk cannot count those children as Norwalk district students.  Under state law, if a charter school has fewer than 20 students who are English Language Learners, it does not need to provide ELL services for its students.  According to state data, Side by Side has 13 ELL students. If Side by Side spends less, one would have to say- of course. It is not required to provide the same services as its host district.

Moreover, the facts show that in Connecticut, charters routinely outspend or at least spend the same as their host districts. Bridgeport charters outspend Bridgeport public schools, and in New Haven and Hartford, they spend comparable amounts.

The hard numbers also show that the public schools districts in which these charters exist have been shortchanged by the state year after year.    Norwalk, for example is owed at least $21.34 million annually– that’s almost $2,000 per pupil annually- by the state. And this conservative amount does not factor in any of the unfunded and underfunded mandates imposed on districts, like the Common Core and teacher evaluations.  By contrast, the legislature forks over massive yearly increases to charters, no questions asked.  For the past few years, Connecticut’s ten neediest districts received increases of less than $300 per pupil per year on average, with strict strings attached mandating that they spend that money only the way Commissioner Pryor wanted it spent. By contrast, in Governor Malloy’s 2012 legislation,   every single charter school in Connecticut received a three-year across-the-board increase of $2600 per child.  Connecticut charters serve one 1% of the state’s public school children.  And ninety percent of Connecticut charters serve a less needy, and therefore, less costly, population than their host districts.

According to state data, Side by Side also performs well below the state average. Side by Side may very well be a nice school whose students and parents are happy. However, that is not the metric by which our public schools are judged, sadly.  If Side by Side and all the other “misunderstood” charters just want to be treated like the rest of us, serve the same children we do, and abide by the same rules.

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

Democratic State Central Committee’s legacy of using donations to fight pro-public education Democrats

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One of the newer Wait, What? readers raised a question in the comment section of the blog this week.  They took offense when one of the blog’s longest standing, and most respected readers, realsaramerica pointed out that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and the State Democrats diverted resources away from beating Republicans and, instead, used the money to try to defeat a slate of pro-public education Democrats… Democrats who had the support of the Connecticut Education Association and the Connecticut Working Families Party.

The new reader, derpdominguez, wrote:

So the great revelation of this campaign is that local Bridgeport politics is backwards and corrupt? Have you been living in this state for the past 40 years? Does it really have anything to do with the state party?

For those who don’t know about last year’s Democratic Primary in Bridgeport for the Board of Education, you can read the earlier Wait, What? posts or here is the abbreviated version;

As many readers know, it seems that every day thousands of Connecticut activists receive emails from top Democratic elected officials and the leadership of the Democratic State Central Committee asking for donations to help bolster the Democrat’s campaign fund.

Most of these emails ask existing or potential donors to “chip” in another $3 or $5.

The emails also inform recipients that ALL OF THE MONEY RAISED will go toward beating Republicans.  In fact, one recent email pledged that the funds raised will, “help us beat the Tea Party Republicans and their multimillion-dollar super PACs.”

However, despite repeated requests for an explanation, neither the Democratic State Central Committee nor Governor Malloy’s political operatives will come clean about their inappropriate involvement in last fall’s Bridgeport Democratic Primary for seats on the Bridgeport Board of Education.

On one side was the pro-charter school, pro-corporate education reform slate that was selected and endorsed by Mayor Bill Finch and his allies on the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee.  The endorsed slate was committed to keeping Paul Vallas, the internationally renowned public school privatization czar, on as the head of Bridgeport’s Schools.

On the other side was a slate of pro-education Democrats who were committed to pushing back the corporate education reform industry, dumping Vallas and re-focusing public investments in Bridgeport’s Public Schools.

The challenge slate also had the strong support of the Connecticut Education Association and the Working Families Party.

Although the Democratic Party has consistently claimed that all the money it raises is used to beat Republicans, in an unethical, inappropriate and underhanded move, the Chair of the Democratic State Central Committee, along with the help of Malloy’s campaign operatives, used more than $50,000 in Democratic State Central funds to directly bank-roll the anti-public education slate in Bridgeport against the pro-public education Democratic challenge slate.

The move by the Connecticut’s Democratic State Central Committee to use its funds to beat Democrats in a Democratic primary was unprecedented.

The day before the Bridgeport Democratic Primary, the Democratic State Central Committee transferred $20,000 to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee to pay for their get-out-the-vote effort and cover the costs incurred by Mayor Finch’s anti-public education slate. One of those expenses was a payment of $3,048.15 to a Portland, Maine direct mail company that produced and sent out a brochure for the anti-public education slate.

Meanwhile, in addition to transferring $20,000 in funds that were supposed to be used for beating Republicans, the Democratic State Central Committee sent its own check to that Portland, Maine company to cover additional direct mail brochures for the anti-public education slate.  Those checks were for 9,471.44 (8/26/13), $3,911.21 (8/29/13) and $4,735.72 (9/10/13).

During the same period, the Democratic State Central also paid Malloy’s political consultants, Global Strategies Group, consulting fees of $7,500 and $5,000.

As an aside, Global Strategies Group was already being paid by “A Better Connecticut PAC” to support the anti-public education slate in the Bridgeport primary.  “A Better Connecticut PAC,” which was set up by ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group that helped fund the record-breaking lobbying campaign behind Malloy’s education reform legislation.  To date, Malloy’s political consultants have collected well in excess of $2.5 million from A Better Connecticut and other corporate education reform advocacy groups.

The real problem is that the Democratic State Central Committee has never come clean about why it spent in excess of $50,000 to beat Bridgeport’s pro-public education Democratic slate, nor have they explained how they managed to circumvent the party rules to use money raised to beat Republicans in a campaign to beat Democrats.

Thankfully, the Bridgeport anti-public education slate lost, Paul Vallas was forced to ride off into the west, and the candidates endorsed and supported by the Working Families Party and the Connecticut Education Association took control of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

So, in short… to the person who wrote, does my potential candidacy have anything to do with Bridgeport, Malloy, the corporate education reform industry and the Democratic state party?

The answer is a resounding …. Yes.

Meanwhile in Bridgeport…  More state funds to Moales’ Kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc.

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Late last week, two new articles about Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr, were posted here on Wait, What?

Moales is the controversial Bridgeport political figure who serves as Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s cheerleader and was the titular head of the Paul Vallas “fan club.”  Moales was appointed by the Malloy administration to the state oversight board that illegally took over the Bridgeport school system and he was later elected, under the Finch banner, to the re-installed and democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education.  For a particularly critical period, Moales also served as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, but lost that post when the pro-public education, anti-Finch, forces took control of the Board last November.

Kenneth Moales Jr. is the also the head of PRAYER TABERNACLE CHURCH OF LOVE, INC.

The company that provided Moales and his church with an $8 million loan has been working to foreclose on the church and about a dozen related properties since last summer.  The foreclosure proceedings seek to take possession of The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit – Home of the War Cry, The Love Christian Academy, The Prayer Tabernacle Church of Love, Kingdom’s Little Ones Academy and the Bishop Moales Fine Arts Center, the Kingdom’s Little Ones Christian Daycare, The House of Virtue, and a church owned residence where Moales resides.

During this same time period, a second major controversy has been enveloping Kenneth Moales Jr. and his financial affairs.

As noted previously, Moales rents space to his mother and sister who run state-funded daycare centers under the name of Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc.

From 2008-2012, this daycare company collected more than $2.3 million in taxpayer to pay for the services it provides to Bridgeport’s children.

In the fall of 2012, Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc. “won” a lucrative contract for 60 of the 72 new early childcare slots that Bridgeport received under Governor Malloy’s early childhood initiative.

Although the new contract required that providers have the new day care slots available by November 2012, official state documents show that Moales’ family operation has never been able to fill its initial allocation and that they weren’t even licensed for new slots until August 2013 —- ten months after the required date.

Even more stunning was the news that the daycare centers run by the Moales family were inappropriately billing the state and that an audit conducted by the State Department of Education determined that the Moales company needed to return more than $75,000 in state funds.

You can read the articles about this developing story here:  State agency determines Malloy ally Rev. Kenneth Moales overcharged state by at least $75,000 for day care slots and here: And the scandal surrounding Moales, Finch, Vallas, Pryor and Malloy grows.

While the recent focus on financial irregularities associated with Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr., his family, and kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc. are related to reimbursement rates for the day care centers run by Moales’ mother and sister, it now appears that the Connecticut Department of Social Services also provided Kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc. with some grant funds in January 2012 and that the Department of Education gave Kingdom Little Ones in Christ Inc. grant funds in March 2012.

Freedom of Information requests are being delivered to determine what these other contracts were for.

In addition, requests have been submitted to determine whether the Malloy administration has given Moales, his family or their companies any other state funds since Malloy took office in January 2011.

You can also read about this issue on the Bridgeport Blog, “Only in Bridgeport.”  The blog can be reached here: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/

And the scandal surrounding Moales, Finch, Vallas, Pryor and Malloy grows.

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After reviewing the facts, it is clearly time for a truly independent investigation into the Moales daycare center operation…

Here are the facts;

We know that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. is Governor Malloy’s loudest supporter in Bridgeport.

We know that Reverent Kenneth Moales Jr. is Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer.

We know that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. played a pivotal role in the illegal state takeover of the Bridgeport School System.

We know that as a member of both the illegal and democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education, Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. was one of Paul Vallas’ most influential backers and a leading advocate for the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport.

And we know that Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. was instrumental in working with Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry to orchestrate the State Board of Education’s inappropriate approval for a new charter school in Bridgeport that will be owned by Steve Perry’s private company.  According to Perry’s charter school proposal, Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. will sit on the Board of Directors for the new charter school.

But after those key facts, things get very murky.

Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. is facing an extremely serious foreclosure suit that seeks to take his church and all the church’s property including Moales’ house, cars and belongs.

Moales’ church also rents space to a series of daycare centers that, according to the Internal Revenue Service, is called Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc.

From 2008-2012, the company collected over $2.3 million in taxpayer funds and that was before the company received an influx of cash from the Malloy administration’s expanded early childhood program and before the company was caught over billing by at least $75,000.

According to the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s records, Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc. is actually registered as PRAYER TABERNACLE KINGDOM’S LITTLE ONES IN CHRIST, INC.

The records recorded with the Secretary of the State indicate the company is owed by Bishop Kenneth Moales Sr. (now deceased) and Peggy Moales (his wife). The company was created in 1999, but has not filed any of its annual reports since 2004.

On the other hand, the Connecticut’s Department of Public Health has given daycare center licenses to Kingdom’s Little Ones (1243 Stratford Avenue, Bridgeport) and Kingdom’s Little One Academy (1277 Stratford Avenue, Bridgeport). Both properties are owned by Kenneth Moales’ church.

One of the centers is run by Kenneth Moales Jr’s mother, Peggy Moales while the other is run by his sister, Kenya-Moales-Byrd.

As part of Governor Malloy’s early childhood initiative, the Moales family “won” a contract to provide 60 of the 72 new early childhood slots in Bridgeport.  The contract appears to have gone to the Kingdom’s Little One Academy but the problem is the daycare centers were not licensed to handle the influx of children.

Although the contract provided that centers must be up and running by November 2012, the Moales family did not get a license for a daycare center to serve those slots until August 15, 2013 – at least ten months after the required date.

The New License, which carries the number 70117, was issued on 8/15/2013.  However, the building, located at 729 Union Avenue in Bridgeport (another property owned by Moales’ church) may still not have a permanent certificate of occupancy, a criteria that must be met before a provider can open a daycare center.

According to emails and memos acquired from a variety of state entities, professional staff at the Connecticut State Department of education were well aware of the problems associated with the Moales’ daycare centers and were diligently trying to get the unused slots moved to a daycare enter that could provide Bridgeport’s children and parents with the daycare services they were entitled to.

Following information provided by the professional staff at the State Department of Education, the Bridgeport School Readiness Council voted on February 19, 2013 to move unused spaces from the Moales daycare center to a center called Cheyenne’s Daycare.

On February 26, the state determined that the Moales’ center could keep 42 slots and 18 others would go to Cheyenne’s Daycare.

But by summertime it became increasingly clear that something was seriously wrong with the Moales daycare operation and that they had never acquired the license needed to utilize those additional 42 slots.

An email to Kenneth Moales’ sister on August 1, 2013 from the State Department of Education reads,

“There are 42 children that were to attend Union St [the new Moales center] but the site did not open and I have no confirmed indication of a date when it will open.  These spots were claimed on Peggy” [Moales] site but we know there not served at that site.  [Peggy’s license only allowed 15 total students].  So, again, since Peggy is claiming 57 students on her monthly report, I assume you are serving them at your site.  But, you only have 19 approved School Readiness spaces at your site.

[…]

….Each month you are being paid for 76 spaces but at this poi t you are only approved for 15 at Petty’s site and 19 at your site.

By September 2013, the State Department of Education’s office of Internal Audit issued the following finding,

“We reviewed documentation supplied by the Office of Early childhood’s Program Manager in connection with school readiness funded programs at Kingdom’s Little Ones Daycare facilities located in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  We believe that the program was overpaid by approximately $75,114 (27 children x 4 months x $695).  We recommend that the Office of Early childhood work with SDE’s Bureau of Fiscal Services to pursue a refund from Bridgeport.

The State Department of Education then issued a refund request writing that said,

The refund request should go to the Bridgeport Public Schools and indicate that it is applicable to Kingdom’s Little Ones.  The Bridgeport Schools will do two things; 1) refund the funds to SDE and 2) work out the details with the Program(s) to recover their funds – likely some kind of monthly recovery, spreading the pain.

But then, in a surprising and suspicious twist, on October 1, 2013, Paul Vallas stepped in to try and stop the state from recouping the money it was owed by filing an appeal.

The appeal was eventually rejected and the state is now working to collect the taxpayer funds it is owed.

When the story is laid out, perhaps the most telling point of all is that Kenneth Moales Jr. was the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education at the time these events unfolded and the Board of Education was apparently never informed that their Chairman’s company had overbilled the City and state by $75,000.  Furthermore, the Board of Education was never told that Vallas, on behalf of the Board of Education, was attempting to stop the state from collecting the misspent funds.

Paul Vallas is now long gone, but the rest of the players are still very much on the scene.

The interrelationships between Moales, Finch, Pryor and Malloy run so deep and the allegations are so serious that a truly independent investigation is needed.

In the meantime, as noted above, Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr. should relinquish his seat on the Bridgeport Board of Education.

State agency determines Malloy ally Rev. Kenneth Moales overcharged state by at least $75,000 for day care slots

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According to an internal audit and investigation conducted by the professional staff at the Connecticut Department of Education, Reverend Moales, Jr., along with his mother and sister, illegally or inappropriately billed the taxpayers of Connecticut for at least 75,000 in state child care subsidies for day care centers owned by the Moales family and located in buildings owned by Kenneth Moales Jr. and his church.

Moales is Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer, one of Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s loudest Bridgeport supporters, and he spearheaded the failed effort to keep Paul Vallas on as the superintendent of schools in Bridgeport.

Moales’ role in the Bridgeport take-over fiasco goes back to when the Malloy administration appointed Kenneth Moales Jr. to Bridgeport’s illegal board of education, a board that was created when the state took over the Bridgeport School System.  Malloy’s action and the illegal board were eventually struck down as illegal by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

However, thanks to Moales’ close relationship with Mayor Finch, Moales got on to the democratically elected board of education as one of Finch’s Democratic endorsed candidates and went on to serve as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education during the time period this daycare billing scandal was taking place.

As Wait What? readers may recall, Kenneth Moales and his extensive property holdings have been facing foreclosure proceeding for more than a year.  Those buildings house daycare centers owned by Moales’ family.

As readers may also recall, in the summer of 2012, Moales and his family “won” a sweetheart deal for 60 of the 72 new day care slots that Bridgeport received under Governor Malloy’s state-wide “early childcare initiative.”

Although there were plenty of other providers in Bridgeport that could have utilized those new day care slots, the lucrative contract went to the two daycare centers run by Moales’ sister and mother.  Not only are those facilities located in buildings owned by Moales’ church, but the daycare centers pay rent to Moales.  The rental costs for the daycare centers have skyrocketed from $20,000 to over $100,000 in recent years.

When the Malloy initiative was announced, potential day care providers were required to guarantee that they would have the new day care slots available and filled no later than October 1, 2012.

However, according to official state documents that were recently acquired by Wait, What?, of the 1,000 new daycare spaces, as of February 1, 2013 – four months after the program began – only 950 of the 1,000 spots were being utilized.  Of the 50 unfilled slots, 40 of them were allocated to Moales.

In addition, upon further investigation, the professional staff at the State Department of Education determined that Moales’ family had actually billed the state for students who were either not part of the state funded program or may not have even existed.

As a result of their over billing the state determined that more than $75,000 had been inappropriately paid to Moales’ family.

In a particularly bizarre move, the Connecticut State Department of Education’s initial finding was appealed by Paul Vallas, not by Moales family.  The appeal came with Vallas was still running the Bridgeport School System.

On January 14, 2014, an official State Appeal Committee met and determined that the Moales family had, in fact, billed the state for services that they did not legally provide and that an amount of $75,114 had been inappropriately paid to Moales and his family.

One of the underlying issues is that while Moales and his family claimed that they had three day care sites available, only two were licensed.  The third site, which was supposed to be located in Moales primary church building, could not be licensed due to a series of problems, not the least of which being that the church itself did not have a permanent certificate of occupancy.

According to the State Department of Public Health, the third site was eventually licensed on August 15, 2013, ten months after the Moales family had said they would have the room necessary to fulfill their contract.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that while the 3rd site was approved, it remains unclear whether Moales was ever able to acquire the permanent certificate of occupancy that is necessary in order to get a day care facility license.

The full set of state documents also highlight a series of extremely troubling concerns,

  • In a July 31, 2013, months after the Moales family had already begun billing for the larger number of slots, the State Department of Education reported that, “The workflow for approving a new application still shows several pending and/or incomplete items (including the application fee, affidavit, property history form, building and zoning approvals, staff work schedule, organization chart, background checks, health consultant agreement, floor plan, outdoor play space sketch and water supply attachments/test).

Even more incredible is that the July 31, 2013 email also stated that, “A complete corrective action plan response is also outstanding from the initial inspection conducted on 2/28/13).

And what may be the most damning piece of evidence of all is that on February 25, 2013, when the Connecticut State Department of Education professional staff informed Moales’ sister that the state would be re-allocating the unused slots to another child center so that Bridgeport so that children could actually get the services they needed and deserved, Moales’ sister responded by writing,

“I forwarded this information to my boss.  He asked me to make you aware that he has spoken to Stephon Pryor and our slots are filled and confirmed.  We are simply waiting for licensing to come and inspect.  The children are CONFIRMED and Bridgeport does not have to loose the slots.”

This email,  along with a variety of others raise extraordinarily serious questions about whether Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, knowingly allowed the Moales family to have children in an unlicensed day care center and whether his lack of action allowed the Moales family to illegally or inappropriately bill the state for services that were not properly rendered.

All of these materials will be turned over to the State Auditors and other appropriate officials in the hope that an independent investigation will be conducted into Kenneth Moales Jr. and his day care operations and whether top officials in the Malloy administration were engaged in any efforts to cover up or protect their Bridgeport political allay.

Check back for more on this breaking story.

The Destruction of Public Education in Bridgeport courtesy of Malloy and Mayor Bill Finch

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When it comes to the corporate education reform industry’s strategies and tactics, Bridgeport has become one of their “ground zero” targets.

Thanks to Governor Malloy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas, the Democratic establishment has presided over an ongoing effort to destroy Bridgeport’s public education system.

Their “accomplishments” have been to divert scarce resources to charter schools that refuse to take their fair share of Latinos, English Language Learners and students who require special education.

They have sought to consistently and fully implement Malloy’s inappropriate and unfair Common Core, Common Core Testing and teacher evaluation education reforms.

And they’ve refused, even to the extent of breaking the law, to provide Bridgeport’s schools with adequate resources.

For example, when Bridgeport’s school budget was $3.5 million underfunded, Governor Malloy provided Mayor Bill Finch with a forgivable loan in exchange for allowing Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to choose Bridgeport’s superintendent.

This year, when Finch refused to meet his legal obligation and provide an additional $3.2 million to meet their minimum budget obligation, Malloy committed to letting Finch off the hook.

The follow commentary piece by Bridgeport Board of Education member Howard Gardner lays out the ugly story of how Mayor Finch (and Governor Malloy) are failing the children, parents, teachers and citizens of Bridgeport.

The piece is entitled, “Where is the “Education Mayor?” and was first published in the Connecticut Post.

The Bridgeport Board of Education is burdened with a teaching/learning infrastructure that has been purposely and systematically neglected. The current level of financial support and lack of resources within this education system is tantamount to being on life support. By the state of Connecticut Department of Education’s own admission, the Bridgeport school system is under budgeted by some $45 million. At the same time the BBOE finds itself in mortal combat with a city that consistently underfunds education.

Every city and town is obliged to bear its share of the cost of educating the children in its jurisdiction, most of the cost being borne by the state based on the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula. This is law as delineated by the state’s general statues. There is a built-in growth percentage that is added to the overall education budget each year. This is the time of year in which cities and towns across the state determine and allocate their incremental funds toward the Minimum Budget Requirement — total education cost. With the looming deadline for the finalization of next year budgets for municipalities and education boards across the state, all cities and towns have agreed to meet their MBR as determined by the State Board of Education. That is, all cities and towns with one notable exception…yes, you guessed correctly — Bridgeport.

For the past three years Mayor Finch’s administration has done everything in its power to circumnavigate the stipulated MBR. Their maneuvering has ranged from substituting in kind services in lieu of cash contribution, crying broke to the state and just flat out refusing to make payments as in the 2013-2014 school year.

We are amazed at this reticence from a mayor who once referred to himself as the “Education Mayor.” I guess “Education” in this case doesn’t mean the traditional public school system, because it is bleatingly obvious that the Mayor has little or no commitment to this institution. This is not a gratuitous comment on the part of the writer of this op-ed. I have some history with the Mayor with regard to education reform.

Five years ago I was invited to join a newly formed education reform initiative comprised of Mayor Finch, then Superintendent John Ramos, then Board of Ed chair Barbara Bellinger, other community leaders, heads of local social service organizations, and business leaders. This organization was founded on the pretext of bolstering the performance of Bridgeport public schools, but operated under a hidden agenda shared only by a clandestine subgroup comprised of Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Robert Francis, and blessed by the Mayor. Suspecting that the purported agenda was not genuine, I resigned from Bridgeport Partner for Student Success, a.k.a., Excel Bridgeport.

I walked away from BPSS over four years ago not having a complete grasp of the hidden agenda. However, subsequent chain of events have made its goals crystal clear — allow the Bridgeport Public School to be decimated, undermined; and then, point to the failure of the traditional public school system in Bridgeport. On that premise, they would build a case for alternative solutions — charter schools and corporation-based educational models. In hind sight one can deduce the various attempts to carry out this diabolical plot: the illegal takeover of an elected BBOE, the failed attempt at a charter change referendum and the hiring of Paul Vallas, public school destroyer extraordinaire.

For his efforts in balancing the BBOE’s budget, Mr. Vallas might have left here as a hero to some; however, his results came with heavy damage to the district’s teaching/learning resources.

This is the stark reality of Mr. Vallas’ legacy — the district has 72 less certified staff, including 27 in special education, than we had four years ago. Music, arts and other electives are non-existing at our high schools.

You can read Howard Gardner’s piece on the CT Post website at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/Gardner-Where-is-the-Education-Mayor-5457666.php

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