The Hoax called “Transform CSCU 2020.”

Thanks to an appointment from Governor Dannel Malloy, former IBM Executive Nicholas Donofrio serves as Chairman of the Connecticut Board of Regents.  Over the last thirteen months, Donofrio and his wife donated $40,000 to the slush fund that the Governor’s campaign operation used to get around Connecticut’s campaign finance law, thereby allowing them to funnel an additional $5.1 million into his campaign, in addition to the $6.5 million taxpayer funded check he took from the state’s “Clean Election Fund.”  With those donations Donofrio can pride himself on being one of Malloy’s biggest campaign contributors.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that at the recent Board of Regents meeting in December, Chairman Nicholas Donofrio addressed Malloy’s controversial “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative by asking his fellow Regents, “Anyone against this?”

And except for the two non-voting faculty representatives on the Board of Regents who have highlighted the very real problems with “Transform CSCU 2020,” there was not a word of concern raised by any of the members whose duty it is to set policy for the seventeen universities and colleges that make up Connecticut’s State Universities and Community College System.

The failure of Malloy’s appointees to the Board of Regents to speak out spoke volumes about the growing disaster that is taking shape as a result of the failed leadership of the Board of Regents and Regent President Gregory Gray.

The truth is that Transform CSCU 2020 is more than a hoax.

Transform CSCU 2020 is nothing short of a plan to downsize and limit the incredible potential that is Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education.

Here is the background;

As part of his Election Year budget, Governor Dannel Malloy held a press conference at Manchester Community College on February 12, 2014 outlining what he called “Transform CSCU  2020” – a “major initiative” for Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges.

Malloy told the assembled crowd, including Connecticut’s media,

“We know that 70-percent of jobs in 2020 will require postsecondary education. That’s why it is imperative that we garner support for these necessary investments in our students.

Let’s move our state university and community college system into the 21st Century. Let’s do that together.”

Reading from the day’s same political script, Gena Glickman, the President of Manchester Community College, added,

“We’re here today to celebrate the governor’s goal to support student success by his investment…. It’s this investment that will better position us to be on the leading edge with our academic programs and will increase public higher education’s role in sustaining and expanding economic vitality for this state of Connecticut.”

But when the dust settled and this year’s fiscal year began on July 1, 2014, Malloy’s “major initiative,” which was paid for with “one-time” revenues, didn’t even begin to fill the budget shortfall created by the Governor’s unprecedented cuts to the state’s public colleges and universities.

Putting aside the Malloy administration’s false claims surrounding “Transform CSCU 2020” is the harsh reality that Malloy and his administration have been engaged in a four year war to undermine, devalue and denigrate the vital role played by Connecticut’s four State Universities, twelve Community Colleges and Charter Oak College.

When Governor Malloy took office in January 2011, the total direct block grants that the State of Connecticut provided these institutions totaled more than $326 million.

While Governor Malloy put hundreds of millions of dollars on the state’s credit card to pay for new buildings at Connecticut colleges and universities, he implemented a series of unprecedented budget cuts that dramatically shifted the costs of operating Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education on to the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families.

As a direct result of Malloy’s budget cuts, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges began this year’s budget (FY15) with a very real deficit that was in excess of $40 million.

On that day in February 2014, Governor Malloy claimed that his “major initiative” would, “move our state university and community college system into the 21st Century.” But in truth, the plan called “Transform CSCU 2020” wasn’t even enough to fill the budget hole that he had created, let alone provide the “extra” money the universities and colleges needed to “move into the 21st Century.”

As noted, what makes Malloy’s “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative even worse is that it is funded using one-time revenue, which means that the deficit that for Connecticut’s state universities and colleges in next year’s budget will be $42 million larger than the one that is already undermining the schools ability to provide the services that Connecticut’s students need and deserve.

Rather than actually “invest” in Connecticut’s institutions of public higher education, “Transform CSCU 2020” was a one-time payment funded with $23 million in surplus state dollars from the year before and a transfer of $19 million from the Connecticut Student Loan Foundation.

Even more insulting is that as part of their management of the initiative, the Board of Regents inappropriately spent $1.8 million on an out-of-state consulting group called The Boston Consulting Group.  The Regents and its President claimed that expensive contract was needed in order to develop an appropriate plan for the “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative.

But now the Regents are claiming that the consultants were never supposed to develop a plan, but were merely retained to provide a series of “road maps” for the Regents to follow.

So what was Chairman Donofrio’s referring to when he asked, “Anyone against this?”

You can call it a “plan” or a “series of roadmaps,” but at no point did Regent Chairman Donofrio or the other Regents properly explain that the legislation actually allocating the funds for “Transform CSCU 2020” already mandated where much of those funds were to be spent.

Those specific areas included, (1) $6 million for the “Go Back To Get Ahead” program, (2) $1 million for the Early College program and (3) $10.8 million for the “Developmental Education” program.

As can be seen in the chart below, the law even required how the $10.8 million was to be allocated across the institutions.

“Transform CSCU 2020” was billed as a program to move Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges into the 21st Century.

The Regents and their President claim to have a “plan,” but in reality, Malloy’s initiative was nothing more than a one-time allotment of funds that were used as a  pay off to a politically connected consulting group, fund a portion of the remedial education courses at the institutions, and help a small group of students get back into college.

If the Connecticut General Assembly doesn’t act quickly, Malloy and his Regents will certainly be “Transforming” Connecticut’s State Universities and Community Colleges…and the “transformation” will be designed to undermine the vital role these institutions are supposed to be serving.

Oh, and here is how the law mandated the $10.8 million portion of the “initiative” to be spent.

Developmental Education Fiscal Year 2015
Asnuntuck  $                215,866
Capital  $                472,009
Gateway  $                991,308
Housatonic  $                688,552
Manchester  $                947,411
Middlesex  $                375,163
Naugatuck Valley  $                915,054
Northwestern  $                174,910
Norwalk  $                812,099
Quinebaug  $                232,158
Three Rivers  $                570,663
Tunxis  $                554,372
Community College Total  $             6,949,564
Central  $                469,565
Eastern  $                469,565
Southern  $                469,565
Western  $                469,565
CSU Total  $             1,878,260
Adult Education:
Asnuntuck  $                  61,259
Capital  $                133,948
Gateway  $                281,317
Housatonic  $                195,400
Manchester  $                268,860
Middlesex  $                106,465
Naugatuck Valley  $                259,677
Northwestern  $                  49,637
Norwalk  $                230,461
Quinebaug  $                  65,883
Three Rivers  $                161,945
Tunxis  $                157,322
GRAND TOTAL  $           10,800,000

Regent President Gray’s “gag-order” on out-going provost must not be allowed to stand

In a world in which we probably shouldn’t find anything surprising, the fact that the Separation Agreement  between the Board of Regents and out-going provost Michael Gargano includes a “gag order” is truly revolting.

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents are presently in the midst of an extremely controversial effort to “Transform” Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.  The Regents paid a leading out-of-state corporate education reform industry consulting group $1.8 million to put together a “road-map” that has been harshly criticized and, if implemented, would do tremendous damage to the future of Connecticut’s 17 state universities and colleges.

In recent weeks Regent President Gray has been engaged in an attempt to claim that the Transform CSCU 2020 Plan is a product of an open and thoughtful process, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The entire process to develop Transform CSCU 2020 was hardly open, and most telling of all, the Executive Committee overseeing the development of the plan doesn’t even include representatives from the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Connecticut’s public state universities and colleges.

Not only does the Transform CSCU 2020 Plan deserve a full and complete public airing, but considering how important the institutions are to Connecticut and its citizens; the plan deserves a legislative hearing by the General Assembly’s higher education committee.

But as if to reiterate the fundamental problem with President Gray and Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Board of Regents, it turns out that the Separation Agreement with the Board of Regent’s outgoing provost Michael Gargano includes a clause forbidding Gargano from making “any derogatory or defamatory statements about his employment with the BOR [Board of Regents], about any previous or current employee or officer of the BOR, or about any previous or current member of the BOR.”

As if that wasn’t incredible enough, the Separation Agreement includes a clause seeking to keep the document secret from the public.

Regent President Gray is a public employee and the Board of Regents is a public agency.

Their effort to block public access to information that belongs in the public domain is reprehensible.

To forbid the out-going provost from talking about why he left his position, about his experience as the provost, or his opinion of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan is not only unethical, but it flies in the face of Connecticut’s once historic position on open government.

Gray and the Board of Regents appear to be trying to use the cover of a personnel file exclusion to circumvent Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws, or worse, these public officials are intentionally trying to block information that rightly belongs in the public arena.

Governor Malloy should demand that the Board of Regents immediately remove the gag order.

If Malloy won’t take that action, the Connecticut General Assembly should step in and ensure that the public’s right to public information is not infringed upon by the outrageous actions of Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents.

The CT Mirror has posted a copy of the separation agreement.

ALERT – The on-going effort to destroy CSU and the Community Colleges

The CT Mirror had an excellent article last Friday entitled, CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan.” It highlights some of the issues surrounding the uproar about Governor Malloy’s “Transform CSCU 2020” plan.

It would appear that the basic problem with the Transform CSCU 2020 “initiative” can best summed up by the naïve comment of Regent President Gregory Gray who told the CT Mirror,

“All of this [plan] is very supportable…I think the faculty, when they really learn more about it, and participate before it becomes a final plan, I do believe they are going to praise it.”

Like a true champion of corporate education reform, Gray appears committed to the notion that a “post-modern,” corporate oriented approach to public higher education is a “simple” solution to providing Connecticut’s residents with the higher educational opportunities they need and deserve in today’s complex world.

Like so much of the corporate education reform movement, the rhetoric sounds great, but the product produced is the antithesis of what is best for students, faculty and the society at large.

It is a sad commentary, although not surprising, that when you turn public primary, secondary and higher education over to the corporate elite and their well-paid consultants, you end up with a “business plan” that appears financially attractive but lacks the sophistication necessary to produce an education system that recognizes that all students can learn and thrive, but not all students learn and thrive at the same time or in the same way.

Most importantly, these corporate driven plans tend to think of educators as if they are the greeters at Wal-Mart, the re-stockers at Target or the checkout workers at the Dollar store.

While all of those positions are vital to the success of an advanced capitalist retail establishment, the model is not transferable to the “education sector,” although the corporate reformers are either unable or unwilling to recognize that truth.

The CT Mirror piece lays out the key issues underlying the failure of the Transform CSCU 2020 plan including;

  • “An unpopular merger of the bachelor-degree granting Connecticut State Universities with the state’s online and community colleges created a 90,000-student system and left many faculty uneasy.
  • A cut in the portion of funding provided by the state legislature challenged the 16-campus system that was already facing significant shortfalls.
  • A trio of serious missteps by the new system’s first president led to his dismissal and further damaged faculty confidence in the organization’s leadership.”

But in the end, the botched development and roll-out of Transform CSCU 2020 rests with the President of the Board of Regents, the Board of Regents and their $1.8 million consultants.

The plan to transform Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges was driven by a consulting company called Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  As CT Mirror notes, the plan is a “long list of ‘road maps’ for implementation; and used language that to faculty was strange, bureaucratic and off-putting, referring to such things as collecting ‘payroll and staffing data’ to ‘identify key opportunities’ with the goal of ‘program optimization.’”

Observers shouldn’t be surprised by the junk delivered by the Boston Consulting Group. While $1.8 million might sound excessive, the Regent President and the Board of Regents got exactly what they paid wanted and paid for…or at least they got exactly what they should have expected.

The Boston Consulting Group is a massive, multi-national consulting company whose fame comes, in part, from helping companies transform themselves into international competitors by outsourcing every possible function and laying off Americans in the process.

The Boston Consulting Group is also infamous for its unending commitment to the corporate education reform industry agenda of privatizing schools, undermining teachers and the teaching profession and recommending that progress can only be achieved by crushing unions and rolling back collective bargaining rights.

Topping their list of “successes” is their present plan to privatize much of Philadelphia‘s public school system.  Their proposal, for which they were paid millions of dollars, has been to lay off teachers, dramatically expand the number of privately run, but publicly funded charter schools, out-source services and replace people with technology.

As the CT Mirror story notes in its story, Regent President Gray now says that he was surprised by the backlash against the plan that he and the Board of Regents developed in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group.

If Regent President Gray was really surprised, then that – as we say – says it all!

As reported in early Wait, What? blog posts, the problems with the Transform CSCU 2020 are not new.

Transform CSCU 2020 started with the wrong approach to developing a comprehensive plan, utilized the wrong consultants and was backed by a Board of Regents who don’t have the understanding or experience with Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges to even know what a successful plan would look like.

The wrong approach to developing the plan:

When announcing their decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group to develop the plan to transform the state university and community college system in April 2014, Regent President Gray said he was confident that the private company with 81 offices in 45 countries had the credentials to do the job.

At the same time, an “Executive Steering Committee” was named to oversee the process, a group whose membership failed to include any faculty, staff, students or alumni members.

Instead, the Transform CSCU 2020 Executive Steering Committee consisted of Board of Regents Chairman Nicholas Donofrio; Board of Regents President Dr. Gregory Gray; The Boston Consulting Group lead Partner on the project, J. Puckett; Catherine Smith, Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development; and John Rathgeber, President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

While having business interests at the table is certainly appropriate when developing a comprehensive plan for Connecticut’s state universities and colleges, a successful system of public higher education requires more than just a business orientation.

In fact, the notion that something as large, complex and important as the Connecticut state universities and community colleges can be “transformed” from the top down, led by an all business sector Executive Steering Committee that lacks faculty, staff, student or alumni is, in and of itself, a sign that Malloy’s appointees lacked the vision, wisdom and understanding to do the job right.

Transform CSCU 2020:  The Wrong High- Cost Consultants:

Regent President Gray and the Board of Regents’ decision to hire the Boston Consulting Group was also wrong from the start.  The Boston Consulting Group record makes it absolutely clear that it does not understand and respect the culture and environment surrounding education.

The Boston Consulting Group’s plan for the Philadelphia Public Schools provides clear and convincing proof of that problem.  In Philadelphia, the Boston Consulting Group’s recommendation including a plan to “essentially wipe out collective bargaining,” including removing tenure for public school teachers and allowing administrators to hire and fire at will.  The BCG report also recommended “outsourcing maintenance and transportation services,” including getting rid of those who belonged to SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201 unless they gave up their collective bargaining rights.  At its core, the Boston Consulting Group plan for Philadelphia was about replacing public education with publicly funded charter schools.

You can read more about BCG’s dismal approach in Philadelphia via the following links;

Report detailing Boston Consulting Group findings and recommendations released; BCG ‘collective bargaining reform’ and what it would mean for teachers; More About the Boston Consulting Group: Read It and Weep; Ethics complaint accuses Boston Consulting Group, William Penn Foundation of violating lobbying code; Put the Boston Consulting Group where it belongs – before the public; Boston Consulting Group has been a driving force on labor talks, school closings, and charters

And as if that was  not proof enough of the inappropriateness of choosing the Boston Consulting Group, the Board of Regents should have simply read the articles written by the Boston Consulting Group’s lead consultant for the Transform CSCU 2020 plan, J. Puckett. Puckett is the Boston Consulting Group’s “senior partner and managing director” in their Dallas office and is the leader of their “global Education practice.”

Puckett’s articles, including “An Education in Making a Difference,” “The State of Public Education in New Orleans, 2008 Report and “Can Technology Revolutionize Education?.”  They paint the picture of a true champion of the corporate education reform industry.

When writing about the future of public education, Puckett writes, “There are several successful U.S. role models, such as New Orleans and Dallas,” adding, “The turnaround in New Orleans has been especially sharp.”

But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we are painfully aware of here in Connecticut, the work of Paul Vallas and the other corporate education reform industry elite has been disastrous from Chicago to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Bridgeport.

Equally revealing is when the Boston Consulting Groups’ J. Puckett opines about the benefit of technology in the classroom saying, “Several providers, such as K12 and Connections Academy, offer a full range of products, including digital curricula, lesson plans, instructional tools, and teacher training. School systems can take advantage of these resources at greatly reduced costs, rather than go it alone.”

He adds, “Rocketship Education, a charter school network near San Francisco, with national expansion plans, is reinventing how learning takes place in the classroom, asking its students to spend 25 percent of each day in a “learning lab,” where they work on customized, computer-delivered material. During this time, the students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

The real evidence about K12 Inc. and Rocketship Charter Schools is hardly positive, but anyone familiar with the needs of students would recognize the inherent problem with the notion that, “students are supervised by monitors, rather than teachers, saving significantly on costs.”

Finally, in a 2014 email Puckett makes it clear just what the Boston Consulting Group is doing.

Writing about a new partnership between Boston Consulting Group, the pro-education reform Gates Foundation and Harvard Business School, Puckett writes,

“The BCG-Gates-HBS PK-12 research focuses on best practices for partnerships between business leaders and educators to accelerate improvement in America’s schools. The research has identified three high-leverage ways in which business leaders can engage with educators to bring about significant change for the better:

* Laying the policy foundations for education innovation
* Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
* Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

“It is our pleasure to share with you two joint research reports on these important topics. We hope the first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, will inspire business and education leaders to work together on the urgent task of transforming the nation’s education system. The second report, Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner, summarizes the findings of a nationwide study on U.S. competitiveness and business’ role in education.

Considering the long and proud history of the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, the Boston Consulting Group should never have been hired for the job of developing Transform CSCU 2020.

A Board of Regents that lacks the necessary or appropriate experience:

Finally, as if the inappropriate top-down approach and selection of Boston Consulting Group wasn’t enough to undermine the legitimacy of the “Transform CSCU 2020” effort, there is the fact that Governor Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut Board of Regents lack the necessary experience to properly oversee policies that impact the 92,000 students who attend the 17 diverse public universities and colleges that make up the Board of Regents CSCU system.

Many of these political appointees can claim successful careers as corporate executives or business people, but they lack of real-world experience and the experience with these institutions to lead the mission of creating a long-term plan for Connecticut’s state universities and community colleges.

Malloy’s Board of Regent Trustees includes:

Regent Chairman Nicholas M. Donofrio, a former high ranking IBM executive who graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Syracuse University.  He continues to sit on the Board of Trustees for those two institutions.

Regent Vice- Chair Yvette Meléndez, the Vice President of Government and Community Alliances for Hartford Hospital. As her Regent biography proudly claims, “Her experience also includes roles at the State Department of Education, where she led Connecticut’s entry into the charter school movement.”    Her degrees come from Brooklyn College and  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Lawrence DeNardis, the President Emeritus of the University of New Haven and a former United States Congressman.  His academic experience included time as an Associate Professor at Albertus Magnus College.  His degrees come from College of the Holy Cross and New York University.

Matt Fleury, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Science Center, having previously served as the Center’s Executive Vice President and COO.  His degree comes from the University of Connecticut School of Business.

David R. Jimenez, a shareholder of the law firm of Jackson Lewis. His Regent bio reports that he provides counsel to employers on a variety of strategic matters including HR compliance, outsourcing/in-sourcing HR initiatives, code of conduct development and organizational compliance, and management of employment law exposures.  His degrees are from University of Texas and Hofstra University School of Law,

Craig Lappen, the President of 21st Century Financial Advisors with degrees from Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut.

Bill McGurk, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Rockville Bank.  He is a graduate of Holy Cross College.

JoAnn H. Price, the co-founder and managing partner of Fairview Capital Partners, Inc. She is a graduate of Howard University.

Elease E. Wright, a former executive at Aetna Inc.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut and served on the Board of Directors for the UConn Foundation.

There are hree other Trustees who do have significantly more CSU or Community College experience, including former Speaker of the House and Lobbyist Richard J. Balducci, former Chair of the House Education Committee Naomi K. Cohen and former President of Charter Oak State College, Merle Harris, but like all good political appointee they have to be extremely cognizant of the wishes of the Malloy administration and their operatives.  The Board of Regents also includes two student representatives.

As the debate about Transform CSCU 2020 continues, the fact is that it could have been a powerful vision to create an even more vibrant state universities and community colleges, but that opportunity has been wasted with the work done to date.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: CSCU leader says balking faculty will eventually praise transformation plan

More on the controversial Transform CSCU 2020 can also be found in the Wait, What? blog entitled, “The stench coming from the Board of Regents.”