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

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

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

The Malloy/Pryor Jumoke Charter School Gravy Train

Many of Connecticut’s public schools remaining significantly underfunded but for those looking for a case study about the growing privatization of public education in America need only look as far as Connecticut and the tenure of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.

Call it the Jumoke Academy Charter School Case Study.

First there as was a Charter School called Jumoke Academy.

Like all charter schools in Connecticut, Jumoke Academy refused to take its fair share of English language learners or students with special education needs.  While proponents of charter schools promised they would help reduce racial isolation, Jumoke Academy, like every other urban charter school was actually more racially isolated than the surrounding community.

And then, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his band of corporate education reform industry allies used Malloy’s new “education reform” law to take over the Milner Elementary School in Hartford and give it to Jumoke Academy using a no-bid management contract.  The new entity is called Jumoke at Milner.

Jumoke was given the management contract to run Milner despite the fact that approximately 40 percent of Milner’s students faced English language barriers or went home to households that didn’t  use English as their primary language AND JUMOKE HADN’T HAD A NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING STUDENT IN ITS SIX-YEAR HISTORY.

In addition, as a direct result of Jumoke’s policies, the charter school company had virtually no experience with students who required special education services.

But those problems didn’t stop the Malloy administration from handing over control of a public school to a private corporation.

Jumoke immediately got rid of the vast majority of the teachers who were part of the Milner School community.

Percent of Students not fluent in English Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 25% 0%

 

Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 39% 0%

 

Percent of Students with special education needs Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 11% 4%

 

Soon after Malloy’s Commissioner of Education brought in the private company to run Milner Elementary School, Jumoke’s Chief Executive Officer Jumoke Academy , Michael Sharpe, set up a holding company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc.  He named himself Chief Executive Officer of Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc. as well.

And the following year, despite no data about the level of success at Jumoke at Milner, Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) was given a no-bid contract to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport.  The decision to hand over the Dunbar School to Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) was made by Pryor, Bridgeport “Superintendent” Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales, Jr. who was then serving as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and had previously served as Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer.

Moales has been saddled with significant legal and financial troubles and has been facing a foreclosure lawsuit that seeks to take his church and all of its properties and assets including the house in which Moales lives, as well as, his Cadillac Escalade and Mercedes Benz.

Interestingly, soon after the deal went down giving Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School to Jumoke (FUSE Inc.), the Hartford attorney who set up and represents Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) became Moales’ lawyer.

In the meantime, Governor Malloy nominated Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) to serve as a member of the State Board of Education and the General Assembly approved the nomination.  Comer promised not to use her position to further the interests of FUSE, the company she serves as its COO.

But Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) is back, yet again.

This week the State Department of Education will start holding hearings on new charter school applications.  One application for a new charter school comes from New Haven where the school would be called the BOOKER T. WASHINGTON ACADEMY.

But as the application explains in one of its initial footnotes, “FUSE is the management organization hired by BTWA to oversee the daily operations of the Academy.  That is, while the schools is called the Booker T. Washington Academy, the public funds will actually flow to the private company known as Jumoke (FUSE Inc.).

As the next footnote goes on to explain, “At the beginning of each school year parents and scholars will receive a handbook that includes behavioral expectations and provides school procedures and policies. All documents labeled Jumoke Academy are attached as a representative model of FUSE drafted documents that will be adapted for the Academy.”

The proponents of this charter school application couldn’t even be bothered to paste the name of the school over the Jumoke Academy name.

What is clear is that FUSE Inc is the charter school management company that Jumoke Academy set up to divert tens of millions of public dollars away from Connecticut’s public schools and into its coffers.

What isn’t so clear is that while Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) suggests that its sole focus is on Connecticut, the Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) corporate executives have been hard at work ramping up their charter school gravy train well beyond the borders of the state..

With little fanfare and no publicity, late last year, FUSE managed to pick up a lucrative contract to take over Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Dalton Elementary School.

As the Advocate Newspaper of Baton Rouge reported last October,

“Some uninvited guests, including a member of the state education board, were allowed at the last minute Monday morning to sit in on presentations by charter school groups seeking space in public schools in north Baton Rouge, thereby averting a potential fight.

Carolyn Hill, who represents the area as part of the 8th District for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, was not happy she had not been invited, calling it “disrespectful.”

“We need people who reside in this area to be at the table,” Hill said.

Leaders of the Recovery School District organized the meetings, originally invitation-only, as that state agency decides which groups will land space in the seven schools RSD runs in north Baton Rouge.

Representatives from three charter management groups gave presentations on their school plans…The three groups that presented Monday were Family Urban Schools of Excellence, of Connecticut…”

Despite their lack of a track record beyond their original charter school and the new no-bid contracts they picked up from the Malloy administration, FUSE Inc. went on to capture one of the contracts from the Louisiana Recovery School District.  

The Louisiana Recovery School District is the entity that Paul Vallas ran for six years.  And, in the “small-world” department, Paul Vallas, of course, was the key player, along with Stefan Pryor, who decided to hand Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School over to FUSE, Inc.

While the public hearings are yet to be held on the New Haven Booker T. Washington Charter School, knowing their uncanny record of success with Governor Malloy, Stefan Pryor and the Corporate Education Reform Industry, the Jumoke (FUSE Inc.) executives must be salivating at the prospect that they will soon be tapping into tens of millions of dollars of additional Connecticut taxpayer funds.

NEWS FLASH: Hedge fund founder buys leadership ‘pipeline’ in Malloy’s office

Don Michak of the Journal Inquirer newspaper has a blockbuster story on the way Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the corporate education reform industry have contaminated the public policy making process in Connecticut.

The JI story, entitled, Hedge fund founder buys leadership ‘pipeline’ in Malloy’s office, raises extraordinary legal and ethical issues about the possibility of illegal lobbying and ethics violations, as well as shines a light on how a billionaire Malloy donor is not only giving the Governor campaign cash but paying for Malloy staff who are in the unique position to help push the corporate education reform industry’s agenda.

Don Michak explains:,

“A hedge fund billionaire’s private foundation is paying three “fellows” to develop public policy in the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and two state departments.

The arrangement is eye-catching because the foundation is bankrolled by Stephen F. Mandel Jr., the founder of the Lone Pine Capital hedge fund in Greenwich and one of the biggest financial backers of Malloy’s Democratic Party.

But it also is extraordinary because of the controversial role Mandel’s foundation and its executive director, Meghan K. Lowney, played in Connecticut’s education policy — particularly in the state’s failed takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Asked if those developments pose conflicts or, more simply, the potential for political backlash, Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba responded that the program sponsored by Mandel’s Zoom Foundation is “a learning opportunity for aspiring leaders and public servants to get a unique view at the executive level of state government.”

“Outside of recruiting great fellows and providing outside leadership training to the fellows, Zoom has no influence on the fellows’ work with the state,” he said. “As a foundation, there is a prohibition of advocacy and lobbying for the fellows which is made abundantly clear from the start and reinforced through the yearlong fellowship.”

Doba compared the governor’s arrangement with Zoom to that of “several similar learning opportunities in other states, cities, and at the federal level like the White House Fellows Program.” He said Malloy’s office previously hosted a fellow from the Dukakis Governor’s Summer Fellows Program through the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, “which is funded privately.”

Reminded of the role played in Bridgeport by Mandel’s second “charitable trust,” the Lone Pine Foundation, Doba said the governor’s office works only with Zoom.

“The fellows do a variety of work from staffing task forces, research, grants management, project coordination, among many other assignments with a view to ‘executive experience,”’ he said. “They do not replace a job that would normally be done by a state employee, whether in our office or an agency.”

As Wait What? readers will recall, Mandel and his aide, Meghan Lowney, played the pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform advocacy group that supported Malloy’s education reform bill, worked to pass Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s failed charter revision proposal to do away with an elected board of education in Bridgeport and has been the biggest boosters for Paul Vallas and Kenneth Moales Jr, the disgraced former chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Excel Bridgeport’s incorporation papers revealed that the lobby group was formed by Meghan Lowney and that its corporate address was also Lowney’s address.  Since then, Nate Snow, the Director of the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America has become Excel Bridgeport’s President, although Lowney remains on the board of directors.

Billionaire Steve Mandel is also on the Teach for America’s  Board of Directors and helped finance Finch’s failed charter revision campaign.

As reported here at Wait, What? and in the Journal Inquirer, Mandel has also donated the maximum allowable amount ($10,000) to the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

In addition, as the JI goes on to explain;

“Lowney was a key figure in the brouhaha over public schools in Bridgeport in 2011 and 2012. Basically, the city’s Board of Education, stalemated and facing an $18 million budget shortfall, voted to dissolve itself, backed by what the Wall Street Journal called “well-funded outside interests.” A state-appointed board subsequently brought in a new superintendent, but the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that the state’s takeover was illegal and ordered a special election.

Lowney, together with Nate Snow, the executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Teach for America, had founded Excel Bridgeport, a proponent of the state takeover. One of the biggest opponents of that move, retired state Superior Court Judge Carmen L. Lopez, dubbed Lowney “the conspirator in chief”’ of the “coup that led to the illegal removal of a democratically elected Board of Education by the state.”

Moreover, the Connecticut Post reported that emails showed that Lowney initially introduced herself to state education officials as an agent of the Mandels, saying they had joined with other funders to revise the city’s education charter to give control to Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, a political ally of Malloy.

Although there were numerous emails between Lowney and officials within the Malloy administration, Meghan Lowney never registered as a lobbyist nor filed the required lobbying reports.

You can read Don Michak’s story at: http://www.journalinquirer.com/page_one/hedge-fund-founder-buys-leadership-pipeline-in-malloy-s-office/article_3994ac24-8cf9-11e3-949d-001a4bcf887a.html

Check back for updates because there is MUCH MORE to this story than has been revealed so far.

Paul Vallas Re-cap: A Trail of Destruction

Two weekend Wait, What? blog posts continue the task of revealing the Trail of Destruction that Paul Vallas leaves in his wake.

First up is the special education debacle.  Despite repeated warnings that his “initiative” to reduce special education costs would not only violate federal and state laws but would be disastrous for Bridgeport children who need and deserve the special education services to which they are entitled, Vallas blasted his policies through.  The result – a blistering report from the Connecticut Department of Education that Vallas and Bridgeport are in serious trouble for violating the rights of Bridgeport’s special education students.  You can read more at: The Paul Vallas Legacy: “Bridgeport systematically violated special education laws”

Meanwhile, while Vallas continues his false claim that he “balanced” Bridgeport’s School Budget during his two year stay in Bridgeport.  In fact, it took a $3.5 million loan from the State of Connecticut to get Bridgeport’s budget out of a deficit last year.

And this year, Governor Malloy and Mayor Bill Finch cut a bizarre deal that allows the City of Bridgeport off the hook for failing provide its fair share of funding for its own schools.

But the “deal” didn’t quite produce the promised results…

As reported in the Connecticut Post;

“School district still waiting for $3.3M deposit

The city’s new school board got a primer recently on the balanced, but fragile 2013-14 operating budget.

The district, the board members learned, is still waiting for the city and state to pay $3.3 million that it’s owed under the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.

Late last year, the city and state came to terms on a deal that would allow the district to contribute about $1 million less in workman’s compensation, which freed up those funds for other uses. But the state has yet to give the district the $1.2 million toward what the city owed.

Before it releases the money, the state expects the city to put in writing that in 2013-14, it will build into its allocation to the district both what it owed this year plus an additional $2 million in the 2014-15 budget.

That means next year, the city will have to contribute $60 million to its schools.

Marlene Siegel, the district’s finance director, told the board’s finance committee she expects to get the money, but she doesn’t have it now.

The district’s 2013-14 operating budget is $231.7 million, which is supposed to include a $59.2 million contribution from the city and $173.7 from the state.”

And finally, after leaving Chicago and Philadelphia’s public schools in financial ruin comes this latest news from Louisiana — Paul Vallas played pivotal role in case that could cost New Orleans and Louisiana $1.5 billion.

As Wait, What? readers know, Paul Vallas had agreed to leave his Bridgeport post next week.  However, he later retracted that agreement and threatened the Bridgeport Board of Education with a lawsuit unless they paid him his full salary and benefits through March 1st.  A majority on the Board fell for the ploy and Connecticut and Bridgeport taxpayers will be paying Vallas $900 a day for an extra month.

We’ll see what additional damage Vallas can do to Bridgeport’s schools before he rides off into the West.

The Paul Vallas Legacy: “Bridgeport systematically violated special education laws”

Paul Vallas hasn’t even left Bridgeport…In fact; the taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport are picking up his salary and benefits for another month… But his legacy is already becoming clear.

Late last week, the Connecticut State Department of Education released a report blasting the Paul Vallas’ leadership and the Bridgeport School System because, among other violations, it “systematically failed to identify a number of students determined to be eligible for special education…”

The damage done to significant number of Bridgeport’s special education students and the violation of federal and state laws that are in place to ensure special education students get the services they need and deserve, is a direct result of Paul Vallas’ policy of arrogance and deceit.

Long time Wait, What? readers may remember a series of blog posts about the outrageous and inappropriate changes that Paul Vallas, in the name of cutting costs, was making to Bridgeport’s special education program.

The posts specifically highlighted items that the State Department of Education has now deemed illegal and inappropriate.

For background read;

UPDATE: Bridgeport’s Assault on Special Education: Time for Commissioner Pryor to intervene… (August 28, 2012)

News Flash: Team Vallas Addresses Special Education Funding Issue (sort of) (August 23, 2012)

What is Paul Vallas doing to Bridgeport’s Special Education Students? (August 21, 2012)

As the Connecticut Post reported this week:

“In response to an October 2013 complaint filed by the Center for Children’s Advocacy against the district, the state conducted an investigation and determined that the district violated its obligations to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state law.

Most of the examples cited in the complaint were from the 2012-13 school year, when under outgoing Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas there was a concerted effort to bring down special education costs.”

The report is a chilling reminder of what happens to individual students when administrators are allowed to disregard their legal and moral duties to children.

The Connecticut Post highlighted a few examples including;

One of the students cited in the complaint had struggled academically since first grade, failed and repeated sixth grade. Because of his age was advanced to high school last year, where he failed every subject. Even so, the district never held a meeting to discuss the student’s suspected educational or emotional disabilities or potential support services that might help him academically.

Another student was placed on homebound instruction for most of the 2012-13 school year due to mental health issues, but a placement meeting was not convened until July 2013.

Students at Harding, Bassick, Marin [schools] went without receiving a Planning and Placement Team assessment as is required under a federal Child Find mandate.

Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Schools literally put some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable students at risk… all so that he, along with the former Board of Education, Mayor Bill Finch, Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor could crow about Vallas’ miraculous ability to balance he school budget.

A copy of the State Department of Education’s finding can be read here: http://blog.ctnews.com/education/files/2014/01/State-findings.pdf

You can read the Connecticut Post story here: http://blog.ctnews.com/education/2014/01/24/bridgeport-systematically-violated-special-education-laws/

Take the time to skim the actual State Department of Education report.

The sad truth is that as terrible as these stories are, if the State Department of Education does its job and investigates Steve Perry and Capital Prep Magnet School, the results will be disturbingly similar….if not worse.

Paul Vallas played pivotal role in case that could cost New Orleans and Louisiana $1.5 billion

Last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, which is located in Louisiana, ruled in favor of a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of about 7000 New Orleans public school employees who were wrongfully terminated when the State of Louisiana took control of 107 New Orleans public schools following Hurricane Katrina.

The case will be appealed but now both the trial court and the Court of Appeal have ruled that the State of Louisiana and the Orleans Parish public school system violated the teachers’ rights and must pay the 7,000 teachers back pay and benefits.  The cost to the State and Orleans Parish could come to $1.5 billion.

According to the Times Picayune newspaper;

“The 7,000-plus educators were initially placed on “disaster leave without pay” then terminated, a decision that was made final on March 24, 2006. The circumstances of those layoffs rubbed salt in the wound, plaintiffs said: Notices were delivered to teachers’ old addresses, sometimes to houses that no longer existed, and they directed teachers wanting to appeal the layoff to come to the School Board’s building, which Katrina had destroyed. This happened even though state-appointed consultants Alvarez & Marsal had set up a hotline to collect teachers’ evacuation addresses.”

The Court ruled that while the New Orleans School Board had the right to institute a “reduction in force,” the way it was done “denied teachers their constitutionally protected right to be recalled to employment.”  The Court added, in failing to create the recall list, the appellees lost the opportunity for employment for a minimum of two years.”

A year later after the teachers were terminated, Paul Vallas rolled into New Orleans to take over Louisiana’s Recovery School District (RSD).

Rather than rebuild New Orleans’ public schools, Vallas turned New Orleans into the biggest charter school experiment in American history.  As the Times Picayune explains, Vallas and the corporate education reform industry used the Hurricane Katrina disaster “to make big changes that would give the children the education they deserved. Schools reopened one at a time or in handfuls, in a decentralized system. The charters had complete control of their own hiring.”

The court found fault with that approach writing that the state “should have rehired some of the teachers itself for the schools it commandeered for its Recovery School District. The law governing the state district says that when schools are taken over, existing teachers ‘shall be given priority consideration for employment in the same or comparable position.’”

The judge wrote;

“There is absolutely no evidence that qualified appellees were provided the consideration mandated by the statute. To the contrary, the record clearly shows that the state advertised for these positions nationally and contracted with Teach for America to hire inexperienced college graduates (who) did not have teacher certification.”

The Times Picayune added;

“For that reason, the state is responsible for an extra year of back pay and benefits to teachers who would have met the criteria to be rehired…[although]…That’s much lighter than Julien’s initial ruling, which made the state equally responsible with the Orleans school system for five years of back pay plus benefits.”

The newspaper concludes;

“Beyond the individual employees who were put out, the mass layoff has been a lingering source of pain for those who say school system jobs were an important component in maintaining the city’s black middle class. New Orleans’ teaching force has changed noticeably since then. More young, white teachers have come from outside through groups such as Teach for America. And charter school operators often offer private retirement plans instead of the state pension fund, which can discourage veteran teachers who have years invested in the state plan.”

Of course, as we have learned over the past two years here in Connecticut, Paul Vallas leaves a trail of devastation where ever he goes.

For more read fellow education blogger Jan Resseger’s outstanding summary of the entire story at: New Orleans: Appeals Court Affirms that Teachers from Mass Firing Deserve Damages.  More details can also be found at The Times Picayune: 7,000 New Orleans teachers, laid off after Katrina, win court ruling.

Vallas demand for $16,500 in extra taxpayer funds succeeds

Paul Vallas will be getting an extra $16,500 from Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers thanks to last night’s 5-4 vote of the Bridgeport Board of Education. 

After heavy lobbying from Mayor Bill Finch and Vallas supporters, newly elected board member Democrat Dave Hennessey, who was part of the successful anti-Finch challenge slate in last September’s Democratic primary decided to vote with Mayor Bill Finch’s remaining three Democratic supporters and the one Republican board member to shift Vallas’ last day as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools from February 7, 2014 to March 1, 2014.

According to a story in the Connecticut Post, the majority claimed that move was necessary to “avoid a legal fight and keep the board from paying health insurance to Vallas beyond his departure date.”

The Connecticut Post added that “Hennessey sided with Kenneth Moales, Jacqueline Kelleher, Hernan Illingworth and Republican Joe Larcheveque to move the date.”

It is particularly ironic, if not straight out bizarre, that after winning a primary in September against the pro-Finch, pro-Vallas slate, Hennessey would now give in to Vallas’ demand for more money.

Hennessey served as a school teacher and coach in the Bridgeport public schools for 38 years before retiring and Vallas is the one who called Bridgeport’s teacher contract the worst he had ever seen despite the fact that it is a far less generous contract then those in wealthy neighboring communities.

Vallas’ biggest supporter, Finch campaign treasurer Kenneth Moales Jr,. praised Vallas at last night’s Board of Education meeting and spoke out in favor of giving Vallas the extra three weeks of pay despite the fact that Vallas had announced his intent to resign in November and December and was present, in December, when the board set his final date as February 7, 2014.

But on New Year’s Eve Paul Vallas sent a letter to the Bridgeport board of education informing them that he would not leave until March 1, 2014 and that he wanted the board to pay his health benefits through June.  The total cost of Vallas’ last minute demand was over $25,000

At the meeting Vallas implied or threatened that he would sue the board if they didn’t give in and five of the nine members of the board ended up rolling over and voting to give away the scarce public funds.

Vallas is leaving Bridgeport to become Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate in the 2014 gubernatorial election.  Perhaps the most interesting underlying issue of all is that the Illinois Democratic nominating convention will be taking place on March 17, 2014.

With Vallas decision to stay in Bridgeport until March, Vallas will have put off campaigning for more than 16 weeks after Quinn announced that Vallas would be his running mate.

Of course… Alternatively Vallas may simply take the Connecticut taxpayer funds, call in sick or take vacation time and join Quinn on the campaign trail in Illinois.

You can read the CT Post piece here:  http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Board-sets-March-1-for-Vallas-departure-5140211.php

Mayor Finch gives “Key to the City” to Paul Vallas

Finch gives Vallas Key to City
Finch gives Vallas Key to City

 

 

With ousted Democratic Board of Education chairman Kenneth Moales, Jr. at his side, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch gave Paul Vallas Bridgeport’s “Key to the City” for his “service to students.”

There is still no word whether Governor Malloy or Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor stopped by last night’s “Farewell Reception” for Vallas in Bridgeport but if they did they managed to stay out of the pictures that have been posted on social media sites.

From the reception, corporate education reform industry advocacy group, Excel Bridgeport, Inc. tweeted, “So many wonderful people in the room giving Superintendent Paul Vallas a warm farewell!!”

Now that Vallas has Bridgeport’s “Key to the City” it isn’t clear whether he will drop his attempt to stick up the taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut for that extra $20,000 he has been demanding or simply take the $500,000 he has already received and his “key” and head back to Illinois in early February.

If anyone out there knows whether Malloy or Pryor joined Finch at the extravaganza, don’t hesitate to inform Wait, What? readers.

 

Malloy and Pryor traveling in “Radio Silence” when it comes to Vallas Farewell Reception

Two days after the media requests were submitted, neither Governor Malloy nor Commissioner Pryor’s communications staff have bothered to respond to the repeated question of whether either of them will be attending Paul Vallas’ “Farewell Reception” that is being hosted by Mayor Bill Finch tonight from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn.

While Connecticut State Statute Section 1-210 does allow public officials to keep certain information private, the Governor and Commissioner’s public schedule don’t normally fall under one of the eighteen specific exemptions listed in the law.

But Malloy and Pryor are apparently trying to keep their schedule secret, at least from Wait, What? readers.

However, it turns out that Governor Malloy WILL ACTUALLY BE in Bridgeport tonight to attend the Hispanic Democratic Caucus (CHDC) fundraiser which runs from 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm at Sazon Y Mambo, a restaurant located at 1691 Main Street, which is about 800 yards from the Holiday Inn where the Vallas extravaganza will be held.

Considering Paul Vallas’ record of failure over the past two years and his recent decision to stick up Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers for another $20,000 on his way out the door, it is possible that Governor Malloy will zip in and out of Bridgeport without stopping by the Vallas event.

Alternatively, Malloy is trying to ensure that teachers and taxpayers don’t know that he is attending the Vallas shindig.

Or maybe we’ll be surprised and Governor Malloy, with or without Commissioner Pryor, will be stopping to instruct Vallas to be satisfied with the $500,000 he has already taken from Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers and that Vallas would do well by simply leaving town and withdrawing his insulting demand for the additional money he doesn’t deserve.

Regardless of the Vallas issue, Malloy’s attendance at the Hispanic Democratic Caucus fundraiser has created its own news.  As Wayne Jebian of the CTLatinoNews writes;

Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s soft-pedaled re-election campaign will take a turn toward hard politicking on Friday when he visits a fund-raising reception on Main Street in Bridgeport for the Hispanic Democratic Caucus (CHDC).”

“I think the last time the governor showed up at one of the caucus events was before he was governor, when he was coming in during the primary,” said state senator Andres Ayala, Jr. (D-Bridgeport).

[…]

What some Latino leaders are looking for in return would come during the 2015 budget process, in the legislative session following the coming election. A particular line item in the state budget, Hispanic Human Development, was slated for termination in both the governor’s 2011 and 2013 budgets. This represented state funds, less than $1 Million per fiscal year, being channeled to nonprofit agencies delivering critical services to poorer residents. “These agencies are in the trenches providing critical services to the most vulnerable population,” said [CHDC chairman Joe] Rodriguez.

Werner Oyanadel, now Executive Director of the state’s Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, helped organize the nonprofit recipients in the battle of the 2013 cuts. According to Oyanadel, there were proposals to decrease the funding by 40% while eliminating the budgetary line item. “As a coalition, we made the point to the governor to keep the line item,” said Oyanadel, arguing that without this point of cohesion for Hispanic groups, it would be impossible to unite and fight effectively for their share in the future.

Since all that Latino voters could expect to receive in the coming election campaign would be promises for better treatment in the next budget year, how else can Latino Democrats weigh the Governor’s performance as a friend to Latinos? “We want to ensure that the administration is diverse, that Hispanics are given key appointments,” said Rodriguez. “That is very important to our community. ”

You can read the full article at: http://ctlatinonews.com/blog/2014/01/07/the-ct-latino-vote-malloy-doing-the-courting/?utm_source=CTNewsJunkie.com&utm_campaign=608bc004de-MCP546_Jan_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a493d2308d-608bc004de-92878945