Education Reform, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Public Consulting Group (PCG), Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
Fellow public school advocates and columnists, Wendy Lecker and Sara Darer Littman have written TWO MUST READ columns this week.
“School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” (Wendy Lecker) and “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?” (Sarah Darer Littman) present a stunning portrayal of the abuses that have become the hallmark of Connecticut’s education reform industry.
As the two articles explain, the ethical and legal abuses reach into the highest levels of state government.
School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law
Published in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst Media Group outlets, Wendy Lecker writes;
“When Joel Klein was chancellor of New York City’s school district, a New York legislator criticized him for engaging in activities contrary to the legislation granting mayoral control of New York’s schools, and depriving parents of a voice in how schools were run. Mr. Klein’s response was that if the legislator did not like what the chancellor was doing he could “sue me, that is what courts are for.”
As a lawyer, rather than an educator, Joel Klein revealed a troubling disregard for parental involvement; a crucial element in school success, as any educator knows. Even more disturbing was the disdain Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer, showed for the law.
Sadly, this attitude of thumbing one’s nose at the public and ignoring the law are the hallmarks of today’s education “reformers.” They have no patience for evidence that their reforms will work, for earning the public trust or even for the law. To them, the ends that they desire justify all means.
Nowhere is this “so sue me” attitude more in display than in Connecticut, where those pushing education “reform,” Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, are, like Joel Klein, lawyers who never worked in a public school. Connecticut’s public education officials have no problem violating laws to advance their agendas — even laws they wrote.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-reformers-should-at-least-4413263.php#ixzz2Ph8iofRm
“Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”
Published in CTNewsjunkie, Sara Darer Littman writes;
“One of the hallmark refrains of the corporate education reform movement is “accountability.” Strangely, their zeal for the concept does not extend to those who implement reforms. Let’s look at two key figures in Connecticut and see how accountable they have been to the state’s taxpayers.
First up, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Pryor started hiring consultants to work on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package. Like most reformers, he had preferred consultants. State bidding procedures? Why bother when he could funnel contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC) by claiming it’s a nonprofit?
That was until Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) filed a Freedom of Information request on state Education Department contracting procedures in Feb. 2012, drawing the ire of Malloy’s legal counsel, Andrew McDonald. ‘This is one of the more reckless efforts I’ve seen by Tom,’ McDonald told Hearst newspapers at the time. ‘His complaint is devoid of any evidence to support his sensational conclusions regarding the governor. If not today, then sometime soon, he’d better be prepared to put some substance behind these thin assertions.’
Fast forward a year, when the State Auditors office released an interim report on the matter.
In the report, the auditors state:
‘SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website. However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity. SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.’
On the next page but within the same section of the report, the auditors also state:
‘On at least two recent occasions, SERC entered into an agreement to employ individuals who would report directly to the commissioner of the Department of Education or a designee … In each of these cases, the commissioner instructed SERC to employ specific individuals. In each case, the employment contract (personal service agreement) was between the individual who was employed by SERC and either the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. On two other occasions, contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services … Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.’
It looks like Mr. McDonald, who is now a Supreme Court justice, has some explaining to do.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/who_is_holding_the_reformers_accountable/
Education Reform, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Malloy, No-Bid Contracts, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Otherwise known as, “What do you mean we can’t get paid for work provided after our contract end date has occurred, but you promised!”
Today’s “MUST READ” news article comes via CTNewsjunkie and is entitled “Lawsuit: State Still Owes About $235,000 to Education Reform Consultants”
As Christine Stuart explains;
“Three education consulting firms sued the state this week claiming the Department of Education failed to pay them in full for their work helping the Malloy administration with its reform efforts in 2012.
Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” says it has only been paid half of the $200,000 it was promised by the state, according to the complaint.”
Wait, What? readers may recall the series of posts about how Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, brought in Leeds Global Partners and the other corporate education reform consultants though no-bid contracts to help him write and push through Malloy’s “education reform” legislation.
Rather than have to deal with the state’s pesky competitive bidding, Pryor and his team simply told the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire Pryor’s hand-picked consultants sans any process whatsoever.
The Connecticut Department of Education then transferred money to SERC to pay for the outside consultants plus an extra percentage for SERC to keep for themselves for overhead and coordination.
The group of companies in question had either done work with Pryor when he was working for Newark Mayor Cory Booker or were other education reform associates who had done work in New Jersey. More
Education Reform, Malloy, New London, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, UConn, Windham Education Reform, Malloy, New London, SERC, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, UConn, Windham
If there is one thing you can say about Connecticut “education reformers” like Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski it is that they sure do know how to double and triple down on making money.
Bridgeport’s Acting Superintendent, Paul Vallas, wouldn’t sign a $234,000 annual contract unless it allowed him to maintain his private consulting company, the Vallas Group. The same held true for the three top staff people that he brought in to help him run Bridgeport’s Schools. Despite making about $200,000 each, Vallas required that they be allowed to do outside consulting, including work in other states for his own company.
Meanwhile, Steven Adamowski’s $225,000 a year no-bid contract to serve as “Special Master” of the Windham and New London school systems apparently isn’t enough to keep him busy. As a result of a recent Freedom of Information request, it turns out that he is collecting extra public funds as a consultant to the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education.
Last year, the Department of Educational Leadership at UConn’s Neag School of Education paid Adamowski to “provide a series of guest lectures on urban school leadership and reform… participate in the redesign of the Executive Leadership Program…” and consult on some other matters. For that he collected a check for $4,000.
This Spring Adamowski is collecting another $4,269 to teach a course entitled Data Driven Decision Making for School Improvement and Policy Development. Rather than the usual weekly classes, Adamowski’s class meets six times for extended class periods.
The UConn money comes in addition to his $225,000 salary as “Special Master,” the $16,800 to pay for the medical insurance for himself and his spouse, the $1,080 to pay for the dental insurance for himself and his spouse, the $3,900 for a special life and disability insurance policy, the $11,000 to cover his worker’s compensation policy, the $5,000 to pay for his professional and general liability insurance and an extra $10,000 to cover any travel and other work expenses.
Adamowski’s “Special Master” contract was one of those that the State Department of Education inappropriately ran through the State Education Service Center (SERC) in order to get around Connecticut’s competitive bidding laws.
Adamowski’s no-bid contract does allow him to engage in outside work, but on a very limited basis. In fact, the contract reads;
“Dr. Adamowski cannot perform services for other districts, agencies or parties while performing the services pursuant to this agreement, except as set for herein. Dr. Adamowski may continue to teach one course per semester in a Connecticut institution of higher education beginning in the spring 2012 semester as long as such engagement does not unreasonably interfere with his responsibilities under this Agreement.”
While his present UConn contract to serve as an “Adjunct Faculty” from 1/17/2013 to 5/14/2013 appears to meet the requirement of his SERC contract, how Adamowski and SERC could claim that his UConn contract last year from 2/24/2012 to 8/22/2012 to serve as an “Academic Specialist” meets the language of the contract is more of a mystery.
In any case, back at the State Department of Education, once the State Auditors ruled that the end-run Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education were using to get around Connecticut’s bidding laws was illegal; they announced that they were proposing legislation that would end their use of that technique. However, as Wait, What? readers know from previous posts, the proposed legislation Pryor put forward to the Connecticut General Assembly this session doesn’t actually do what Commissioner Pryor reported that it did.
Education Reform, Ethics, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Andrew McDonald, Education Reform, Malloy, SERC, Stefan Pryor
It is a move that George Orwell would be proud of; Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, the State Board of Education and the Malloy Administration recently explained that they were proposing a new law to ensure transparency and force the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to follow the state’s bidding laws.
However, the proposed legislation is actually written in such a way as TO EXEMPT SERC from having to follow the state’s bidding laws.
To date, the media and observers have taken the Malloy Administration at their word, and while critical of Commissioner Pryor’s use of SERC to end-run Connecticut’s bidding laws, reports have been that Pryor was leading the charge to end the practice he, himself, had used to direct contracts to vendors that he had worked with in the past.
But I digress, let’s go back and start at the beginning of this story;
Upon arriving as Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor used the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to avoid Connecticut’s bidding laws so that he could hire certain consultants to help him develop Malloy’s “education reform” bill.
He directed SERC to hire selected consultants and then transferred state funds to SERC to pay for those contacts. By using SERC he was able to skip Connecticut’s competitive bidding process.
As Wait, What? readers will recall, the issue generated a fair amount of media attention and criticism. A whistleblower complaint was submitted to the Connecticut Office of State Auditors by Tom Swan, the Executive Director of CCAG of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. The complaint demanded a full investigation, claiming that the Education Commissioner’s actions were inappropriate and illegal.
As reported in CTNewsjunkie at the time, “The Malloy administration had no comment beyond what it told the Connecticut Post last Friday, when the governor’s chief legal counsel said Swan’s allegation was “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”
[As an aside, the governor’s chief legal counsel, Andrew McDonald, has since been nominated and approved as a justice on the Connecticut Supreme Court].
As the State Auditor’s investigation into Commissioner Pryor’s actions continued, and the evidence mounted that the contracts were illegal, Pryor and the Connecticut State Board of Education changed strategies.
Instead of continuing to claim that their contracting procedure was traditional and appropriate, they announced that they were going to propose changes to the laws governing the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to ensure that future contracts met the state’s contracting procedures.
At a special State Board of Education meeting on January 23, 2013 the State Board voted to adopt its 2013 legislative agenda that included a proposal that Pryor explained would hold SERC to “the same contracting and public disclosure standards as any state agency.”
According to an article in the CT Mirror at the time, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor addressed the State Board saying, “Recently some questions have arisen… Some of these questions are legitimate.”
The CTMirror went on to report that Pryor added, “The goal is to enhance confidence in SERC…It’s necessary to formalize the structure and end the ambiguity.”
State Board of Education members voting in favor of Pryor’s bill included the Board’s Chairman, Allan Taylor, Theresa Hopkins-Staten, Terry Jones, Ellen Camhi, Charles Jaskiewicz, Patricia Keavney-Maruca, Estela López and Joseph Vrabely.
Those voting in opposition to the bill? None.
Just last week, the State Auditors released their official report that determined that Pryor and the State Department of Education had acted illegally. The whistleblower complaint wasn’t as “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence” as Malloy’s chief counsel had claimed. (See Wait, What? post by clicking here)
Following the Auditor’s report blasting Pryor, the State Department of Education and SERC for their illegal contracting procedures, Kelly Donnelly, Commissioner Pryor’s Director of Communications released a statement to the CT Post that read;
“The State Department of Education is committed to resolving issues raised about the State Education Resource Center in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability…That is why, in January, the department, with the unanimous support of the State Board of Education, proposed new legislation to clarify SERC’s legal status, establish a board of directors as well as new hiring and procurement procedures, and ensure transparency in its operations, among other key reforms.”
A reasonable person would read Pryor’s statement to the State Board of Education and Donnelly’s statement to the media as evidence that the proposed legislation would require that SERC follow Connecticut’s bidding laws.
But alas, that isn’t the case.
In response to the State Department of Education’s statement, the State Auditors said that the “proposed language does not call for a not-for-profit entity and is not consistent with the provisions of quasi-public entities.”
Not consistent with the provisions of quasi-public entities?
So that required a return to the actual language of the bill Pryor and the State Board of Education approved at their special meeting and that the Malloy Administration submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly.
As expected, the proposed legislation modifies Section 10-4q of the Connecticut state Statutes, the statute that creates and governs the State Education Resource Center (SERC).
But what went undetected by the media and observers that day was a new Section (h) of the law which reads;
(h) (NEW) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 4-98, 4-212 to 4-219, inclusive, 4a-51 and 4a-57, the Department, in agreement with the board of the State Education Resource Center, may allocate funds to the State Education Resource Center to allow the State Education Resource Center to provide professional development services, technical assistance, evaluation activities, policy analysis, and other forms of assistance to local and regional boards of education, State Department of Education, charter schools, technical high schools, school readiness providers and other educational entities.
The impact of the language “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 4-98, 4-212 to 4-219” means that when this proposed bill becomes law, the Commissioner of Education may ask SERC to provide services (hire consultants) and when doing that, SERC is exempt from Sections 4-212 to 4-219 of the Connecticut State Statutes.
That is, notwithstanding the law, SERC may sign contracts without having to go through the process required in 4-212 to 4-219.
So what do sections 4-212 to 4-219 of the Connecticut State Statutes cover?
The bidding procedures associated with personal service agreements including;
- Personal Service Agreements cost of not more than twenty thousand dollars
- Personal Service Agreements having cost of more than twenty thousand dollars but not more than fifty thousand dollars
- Personal Service Agreements having cost of more than fifty thousand dollars or term of more than one year.
- And amendments to personal service agreements.
The legislation proposed by Commissioner Pryor, unanimously approved by the State Board of Education and submitted by the Malloy Administration does “reform” the structure of the State Education Service Center.
However, part of that reform IS TO EXEMPT SERC from Connecticut’s laws governing the use of personal service agreements (aka the very contracts for consultants that got Pryor into trouble in the first place).
Instead, SERC would be given the authority to come up with its own process for hiring consultants.
No other state agency has that ability and no other quasi state agency has that ability.
But that is exactly what the bill submitted by the Malloy Administration does.
The Malloy Administration’s goal was to say one thing and do another…
The goal was to get the media to listen to what was being said and not what was being done…
And they just about got away with it.
Education Reform, Ethics, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski Education Reform, Malloy, SERC, Stefan Pryor
Wait, What? readers know the long, ugly story behind yesterday’s news that Commissioner Stefan Pryor did, in fact, use a quasi-state agency, the State Education Resource Center (SERC), to get around state bidding laws so that he could hire companies and individuals that he had worked with in the past.
State Auditors have now determined that Pryor side-stepped the state laws in his successful effort to bring in consultants to develop Malloy’s education reform bill. Most of the consultants had worked with Pryor in his previous job when he worked in New Jersey.
In fact, the state Department of Education used the same technique to deliver a two-year contract to Steven Adamowski, who now serves as the “Special Master” for the Windham and New London school systems.
The CT Post initially broke the story of Pryor’s failure to follow the Connecticut’s bidding laws.
Pryor had directed SERC to his hand-picked contractors and then Malloy’s Commissioner of Education transferred money from the state Department of Education to SERC to cover the costs. By having the contracts go through SERC, Pryor could hire colleagues without going out to bid or using the state’s sole source procedure.
According to the State Auditors, “SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website…However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity … SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.”
Commissioner Pryor has said he was just following common practice and is now working to change SERC’s status to prevent the bidding maneuver from being used in the future.
Pryor’s Director of Communications, Kelly Donnelly released a statement to the CT Post saying, “The State Department of Education is committed to resolving issues raised about the State Education Resource Center in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability…”That is why, in January, the department, with the unanimous support of the State Board of Education, proposed new legislation to clarify SERC’s legal status, establish a board of directors as well as new hiring and procurement procedures, and ensure transparency in its operations, among other key reforms.”
However, Connecticut’s state auditors responded, “Their proposed language does not call for a not-for-profit entity and is not consistent with the provisions of quasi-public entities.”
You can find the latest CT Post article here: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Probe-State-agency-a-slush-fund-4299001.php#ixzz2Ld5Gx7GG
Meanwhile, for more background about Pryor, SERC and how this story developed, check out some of these previous Wait, What? posts
Malloy, Pension, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski Malloy, Pension, SERC, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski
Forty-five thousand teachers and nine thousand administrators have managed to follow Connecticut law and acquire Department of Education certification in order to participate in the Teachers Retirement System, but Steven Adamowski and the Malloy Administration continue to believe that one of Malloy’s “education reform experts” and “Special Master” for the Windham School System, deserves an exemption from that “burden.”
Readers will recall that earlier this year, despite a $9 billion short-fall in Connecticut’s Teacher Pension Fund, Governor Malloy slipped language into his “Education Reform” bill to retroactively enlarge Adamowski’s teacher retirement pension by giving him credit for the years he served as the Superintendent of Schools in Hartford, despite the fact that he was not certified to be the superintendent.
This “gift” could amount to an additional $27,000, per year, when Adamowski retires.
In a display of courage, the Connecticut Legislature stripped that language out of the proposal bill before passing Malloy’s education reform bill.
But what was left unaddressed was the Malloy Administration’s on-going effort to get Adamowski credit for his time as “Special Master,” even though he still hasn’t gotten the certification he would need to get back into the retirement system.
Here is the latest…
Buried deep within the Connecticut State Statutes, Section 183b, subsection (E) of subsection (26) is language that was added in 2007. The language expanded the definition of a “Teacher” (for the purpose of participating in the Teacher Retirement System) to include “(E) a member of the staff of the State Education Resource Center [SERC]…employed in a professional capacity while possessing a certificate or permit issued by the State Board of Education.”
The language put SERC’s employees into the Teacher Retirement System (as long as they possessed a certificate or permit issues by the State Board of Education). SERC is the agency that Commissioner Pryor has been using to get no-bid contracts to out-of-state education reform companies that have been helping develop and implement his “reform” agenda.
Well, back when the Windham take-over took place, rather than having to deal with the state laws pertaining to the hiring of consultants, the State Department of Education simply directed the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire Adamowski, via a no-bid contract, to serve as the state’s Special Master.
The contract, including a salary and benefits package in excess of a quarter of a million dollars, was signed by Adamowski, the Executive Director of SERC and the State Commissioner of Education.
The contract included language that reads “Dr. Adamowski will be allowed access to the same benefits as stated in the SERC Employee Handbook that other eligible SERC employees are offered, except as otherwise modified herein. Dr. Adamowski will receive 25 days of accrued vacation time per year. Dr. Adamowski will receive 15 days of sick time per fiscal year. Dr. Adamowski will also be eligible for 3 days of paid personal time per fiscal year. Also, Dr. Adamowski will be eligible to continue membership in the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement System…”
That language raises two key questions. Is Adamowski actually an “employee” of SERC (or is he a consultant), and if he is an employee, has he now acquired the proper certification or permit that is required under that language in 183b (26) (E) so that he can tap into the teacher’s retirement system.
In April, I submitted a request to SERC asking whether Adamowski was an employee or a consultant. Despite repeated requests, SERC has refused to provide that information claiming it was part of Adamowski’s personnel file, which is exempt information under the Freedom of Information Act.
(As an aside, since SERC is a quasi-public entity, the public has a right to know whether an individual is or is not an employee, but for that, I’ll have to appeal to the Freedom of Information Commission).
But the more important questions are why did the Malloy Administration allow this language into Adamowski’s contract knowing that Adamowski doesn’t have the required certification and why are payments now being made into the pension fund, on Adamowski’s behalf, so that he can add these two years to his future state teachers retirement pension?
The State Board of Education is meeting today. Among the agenda items is an update from Adamowski about his progress in Windham.
If Commissioner Pryor or Special Master Adamowski see this blog, perhaps they could explain to the State Board and the public what is going on with Adamowski’s pension and why they think one well-connected “education reformer” deserves to collect even more public funds despite the fact that he refuses to play by the same set of rules that everyone else has to play by?
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Corporate Viewpoint, Education Reform, Ethics, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Malloy, SERC, Stefan Pryor
[This one is dedicated to the State Auditors, Office of State Ethics and maybe even the Chief State’s Attorney depending on what is or isn’t in the documents that the Malloy Administration has so far refused to release]
When Governor Malloy asked Stefan Pryor to be his Commissioner of Education, it turns out that the welcome basket appears to have included a blank check with a note that must have read something like this; “Welcome aboard Stefan, don’t worry about all this budget crisis talk, I appreciate that in the corporate world new leaders bring in their own team of top advisers and consultants so start recruiting and retaining to your heart’s content.”
First came Yale Law School graduate Adam Goldfarb, who served as one of Pryor’s policy advisor in Newark New Jersey for the last few years, and had also spent time as Pryor’s intern when he worked for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Pryor named him an Executive Assistant. Although Goldfarb was apparently making $75,000 in New Jersey, Pryor asked the Governor’s Office for permission to bounce his salary up 33 percent to $99,000 and Malloy’s Chief of Staff gave the green light.
Then came Emily Byrne, who had worked for Mayor DeStefano for a number of years. Byrne, who was making $85,000 a year as the Executive Director of New Haven Promise, was named Education Staff Assistant with a salary of $90,000, up only 6 percent from what she was making.
Thanks to various Freedom of Information requests, including the one by CCAG, we find that one of the more “humorous” moments is when the Pryor’s Executive Assistant, Adam Goldfarb, writes to a State Department of Education employee charged with hiring saying “…per Stefan, don’t continue negotiating with Emily re salary — we’ll have to figure it out with her separately.” (It makes one feel bad for the poor state manager who thought he was actually supposed to be negotiating an appropriate salary).
After Emily came Shana Kennedy-Salchow, who was working as the Interim Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. (That’s the group that more recently claimed that poverty was not a barrier to educational achievement and is now running hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of television ads on behalf of Governor Malloy and his “Education Reform” bill). Pryor named Kennedy-Salchow to another Education Staff Assistant position with a salary of $110,000. She had been making $88,000 but that was for a 32 hour week rather than the more lengthy state work week.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Pryor instructed the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to retain Ranjana Reddy, a Yale Law student, who also worked with Pryor in Newark when she was a “Founding Teacher” at the Rise Academy. The Rise Academy is a charter school developed by the KIPP organization. KIPP is the largest charter school management company in the nation with at least 133 schools and rumor has it that we’ll see be seeing them here in Connecticut in the months to come. In fact, if Malloy’s Commissioner’s Network becomes law, companies like Achievement First and Kipp will be among the only entities that have deep enough pockets to take over existing schools half way through the fall semester. Remember that as a founder and Director of Achievement First, Pryor helped develop the company’s new strategic plan that called for growing from 20 to 35 schools in the coming years. According to their 2010 annual report, if Achievement First can reach its goal it will be larger than 95 percent of the schools systems in the country.
Of course, while Pryor was ramping up the size of his executive staff, he was also running “no-bid” contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC).
First came William Cox, of DSA Capital, who was apparently retained and paid for by some third-party who then “donated” the company’s services to help Pryor identify and retain other consultants to develop Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill. The documents released to date don’t explain how the DSA deal came together; however, media outlets in New Jersey reported last year that DSA Capital was “being paid $60,000 by a California philanthropic foundation to help reorganize the New Jersey Department of Education.” At the time, the Star-Ledger newspaper wrote “legislators and education advocates questioned the need for such work and the method by which the contract was awarded. Because a philanthropic organization is funding Cox’s consulting, the traditional requirement of public bidding for state contracts does not apply.” Interestingly, according to the media report, DSA Capital was also part of a $500,000 consulting contract to help prepare what became that state’s failed Race to the Top application.
After DSA, came Pryor’s $195,000 “no-bid” contract with Leeds Consulting and then the $60,000 “no-bid” contract with Education First Consulting.
The paperwork between the State Department of Education, SERC and the various consultants is hard to follow and in some cases, the paper trail disappears completely, but what documents do exist make it extremely clear that the selections were based on relationships rather than identifying who might do the best job.
At one point, Education First Consulting asks whether they can “involve Ben Fenton from New Leaders on the principal eval work in Connecticut. Ben and I had a great conversation last week and we’ve worked well together in IL.” In the small world Department, Fenton and New Leaders also worked with Pryor in Newark.
Also, before joining Leeds Consulting, Jonathan Gyurko served as Director of Charter Schools for New York City where he was responsible for overseeing 32 charter schools. It is not clear what role, if any, Gyurko might have played when Pryor and Achievement First were trying to open their ten charter schools in New York City.
But the absolute best email during this entire sordid affair shows up on January 19, 2012, just after the contract between Pryor, SERC and Leeds Consulting was finalized. William Cox, the DSA Capital intermediary writes to Peter Lyons at Leeds Equity (and cc’s the email to some of Pryor’s inner circle).
The email reads;
There has been a change of plans. The state will be using one of its existing agencies to directly contract with Leeds. So we do not need to do the contract with CCSSO.
Peter, Emily and or Brian Mahoney will be in touch to accelerate and streamline this process. (Emily being Pryor’s assistant and Mahoney being a senior staff person in the Department of Education).
Apologies for all the changes but this works best for all
To which Peter Lyons of Leads Equity writes back “We had just finalized everything with Tina this morning. Do you know how long this change will set us back in terms of getting a signed contract and payment?”
Note: Talk about ungrateful. Pryor forces a $195,000 no-bid contract through one of Connecticut’s quasi- state agencies and all the consultant can say is “how long will this change set us back in terms of getting a signed contract and payment.”
Oh and last, but not least, despite hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents that have been released by the Malloy Administration there is no mention of who CCSSO is, why they were trying to run a state contract through some completely unconnected entity or who was going to be picking up the tab for the contract.