Adam Goldfarb, Alan Taylor, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Allan Taylor, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Two key questions about Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee
Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker
Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee is one of the most important citizen advisory groups in the state.
Connecticut State Statue 10-4 (C) states that the Connecticut State Board of Education “shall prepare every five years a five-year comprehensive plan for elementary, secondary, vocational, career and adult education. Said comprehensive plan shall include, but not be limited to, a policy statement of the State Board of Education’s long-term goals and short-term objectives, an analysis of cost implications and measurement criteria and how said board’s programs and operations relate to such goals and objectives and specific action plans, target dates and strategies and methods of implementation for achieving such goals and objectives. The State Board of Education shall establish every five years an advisory committee to assist the board in the preparation of the comprehensive plan. Members of the advisory committee shall be appointed by the State Board of Education with representation on the committee to include, but not be limited to, representatives of the Connecticut Advisory Council on Vocational and Career Education, education organizations, parent organizations, student organizations, business and industry, organized labor and appropriate state agencies.”
Two questions stand out.
When did the State Board of Education vote, as required by the law, to establish Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee? (SBE voted to set up its own Ad Hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee at its October 2, 2013 meeting)
Second, aside from a mention in a PowerPoint Presentation that Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff, Adam Goldfarb, made at the State Board of Education’s August retreat, what steps did the Commissioner or the Board of Education take to solicit suggestions about who should serve on Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee?
Achieve Hartford, Achievement First/ConnCAN, Alan Taylor, Charter Schools, Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Education Reform, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Malloy, Stefan Pryor Allan Taylor, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Pryor packs Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee with charter school and corporate reform advocates.
As mandated by Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-4(c), every five years the Connecticut State Board of Education must develop a new five-year Comprehensive Plan for Elementary, Secondary, Vocational, Career and Adult Education in Connecticut. Upon adoption by the State Board of Education, the plan is submitted to the Governor and the General Assembly’s Education Committee.
In the past, this process has been developed with the broad-based consensus of public educators from throughout Connecticut.
In December 2005, the State Board of Education appointed an advisory committee that included a broad array of organizations and individuals engaged in promoting public education in the state. Narrowly focused special interest lobbying groups such as the Connecticut Charter Schools Network (CCSN) were allowed to present testimony but were not put on the Advisory Committee.
The 2005 committee represented the wide spectrum of Connecticut’s public education community: teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, public school students, Connecticut’s technical schools and institutions of higher education made up the core of the committee along with some representatives of Connecticut’s business community.
Advisory committee members had a long track-record of expertise in Connecticut public schools working with a diverse population of Connecticut students. This is just the type of group we would want to determine the long-term vision for our school districts.
A comprehensive plan requires a broad thinking group that looks out for the interests of all our children.
But now that Governor Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor have taken the helm, those days are gone. Instead of appointing members dedicated to the long-term development of quality public education in Connecticut, they have poisoned the Advisory Committee and the process for developing the new five-year comprehensive plan by packing it with corporate education reform groups that have consistently revealed their narrow political agendas.
Public education has been a primary target of America’s growing corporate education reform industry. Over the past three years, these so-called reformers have spent a record breaking $6 million plus lobbying on behalf of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives, many of which have been aimed at promoting the privatization of public education in the state.
The corporate reformers also dumped record amounts into elections in Bridgeport, first in a failed effort to change the City’s charter to do away with a democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor and then in a failed effort to elect members of the board of education who support Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas.
Now it has become painfully clear that all that money has paid off, at least when it comes to trying to control the discussion around Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan for 2013-2018.
The new Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee has been packed with pro-corporate reform organizations.
When the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee meets for the first time tomorrow from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Legislative Office Building many of the seats will be filled with corporate education reform industry representatives.
New members of the State Board of Education’s Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee include representatives from:
- Achieve Hartford!
- Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN)
- Connecticut Council on Education Reform
- Excel Bridgeport
- Northeast Charter Schools Network
- Students for Education Reform – Connecticut
- Teach for America – Connecticut
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), the charter school lobby group formed by the board members of Achievement First, Inc. has spent more than any other organization lobbying for Malloy’s Education Reform bills. Of course, ConnCAN’s relationship with Achievement First, Inc. is especially noteworthy since Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.
Connecticut Council on Education Reform is the New Haven-based, corporate-funded education reform organization that joined ConnCAN and Michelle Rhee’s Students First/GNEPSA in running television ads supporting Malloy’s reforms.
The Northeast Charter School Network is the New York based charter school advocacy group that recently merged with the Connecticut Charter School Network.
Students for Education Reform – is the quintessential corporate “astro turf” lobbying organization bankrolled by a variety of education reform groups. Recall that in 2012, Students for Education Reform organized a “ student demonstration” in favor of Malloy’s reforms on the Capitol steps but when students at the demonstration were questioned about why they were there, they had no idea what they were demonstrating about.
Students for Education Reform’s Board of Directors includes Jonathan Sackler who is also on the Boards of Achievement First, Inc. and ConnCAN. Another one of Students for Education Reform Directors is Justin Cohen. Cohen is the President of MassInsight, the out-of-state consulting company that recently received a $1 million contract from Pryor. Cohen also served as a moderator for Malloy’s education reform conference before Governor Malloy introduced his reform bill and Cohen traveled to Connecticut to submit testimony in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill when it was first introduced.
Prior to becoming President of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group, Justin Cohen was the Director of the Office of Portfolio Management and senior advisor to Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Excel Bridgeport and Achieve Hartford! are two corporate affiliated organizations that have worked toward expanding charter schools.
And Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter is the vendor that is making millions of dollars thanks to contracts in Bridgeport, Hartford, New London, New Haven, Windham and elsewhere to place minimally trained recent college graduates to fill jobs that should be held by certified Connecticut school teachers who have graduated from Connecticut’s college and universities. It should be noted that the Chairman of Excel Bridgeport’s Board of Directors is none other than the Executive Director of Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter.
Perhaps even more disturbing, Teach for America, along with ConnCAN, Excel’s leadership and State Board of Education President Allan Taylor, were the behind-the-scenes architects of the secret and illegal 2011 state takeover of Bridgeport’s democratically elected board of education
Many of these groups, like Teach for America and the charter lobbies, have been singularly focused on using public funds to expand their businesses in Connecticut.
Charter schools serve 1% of Connecticut’s students. Yet they have been given SEVEN seats on the new Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee
Although some of these corporate education reform organizations have been plaguing our state for several years, others have absolutely no history in Connecticut.
All of these groups are primarily funded by national networks. Why should these narrow groups, dedicated to serving outside interests, be determining the future of Connecticut’s public education system?
Why should groups standing to gain contracts with the State Department of Education even be allowed to serve on this committee?
When it comes to pushing their pro corporate education reform industry agenda, there has been no doubt where Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor stand, but this latest move to ensure their agenda becomes part of Connecticut’s five year comprehensive education plan is perhaps their most offensive move yet.
Adam Goldfarb, Alan Taylor, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski Adam Goldfarb, Allan Taylor, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowksi
A primary question facing Governor Malloy and Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is how did they have the authority to create a special position for Steven Adamowski when the State Board of Education hadn’t even voted to continue Adamowski’s role as “Special Master” for the Windham and New London school systems.
In fact, the position for “Special Deal” Adamowski wasn’t even part of the State Department of Education’s organization plan.
For that we have to go back to January 18, 2012 when the Connecticut State Board of Education approved Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s reorganization plan. Pryor’s plan was developed with the help of a team of consultants who were brought in on no-bid contracts to help Malloy and Pryor write the Governor’s new education reform bill and reorganize the department to implement the new initiative.
Connecticut’s taxpayers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for these out-of-state consultants to develop a re-organization plan for Pryor and the education reform bill for Malloy.
At the time, Commissioner Pryor said that the reorganization plan laid out “the essential groundwork for realizing reform by creating the structure and capacity” to carry out Malloy’s education reform efforts.”
According to a press release issued at the time, “The reorganization addresses Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s six principles on education reform, including: (1) Enhancing families’ access to high-quality early childhood; (2) Turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools and districts; (3) Expanding the availability of high-quality school models; (4) Removing red tape and other barriers to success; (5) Ensuring that our schools are home to the very best teachers and principals; and (6) Delivering more resources, targeted to districts with the greatest need-provided that they embrace key reforms that position our students for success.”
State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor was quoted in the official press release saying, “The Board’s support for the reorganization of the Department sets into motion a new era for education reform grounded in high expectations for every student in Connecticut’s public schools. Chief among our goals is to harness the strength to overcome deep achievement gaps in our system. This reorganization plan provides the right framework for progress.”
Commissioner Stefan Pryor added, “This reorganization plan sets the stage to accomplish the significant education reforms presented by Governor Malloy. We will position a talented team and operating structure that’s second to none, making Connecticut a national education leader once again.”
But the plan didn’t include the office of Special Master or a position for Steven Adamowski because Adamowski’s no-bid contract had already been delivered to him through the State Education Resource Center.
But now Malloy and Pryor wanted Adamowski to get a state job and apparently were hoping nobody would remember the earlier statements surrounding Pryor’s re-organization plan.
On August 8, 2013, Adam Goldfarb, Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff, wrote to Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management explaining, “The purpose of our requested increase in headcount is to successfully implement the new work required of the state by the Governor’s reforms…”
So now Pryor’s operation needed more positions to implement Malloy’s education reform initiative?
But just a few weeks earlier Pryor had let seven State Department of Education experts go. The four Leaders in Residence and the three retired superintendents of schools, all of whom at had been successfully working with these priority school districts to enhance their local education programs were gone and Pryor replaced them with a $1 million contract with a well-connected, out-of-state company called MassInsight that proceeded to send in a series of inexperienced consultants to help Connecticut’s poorest school districts.
But now Malloy’s Chief of Staff was asking for more positions, one of which we have now learned was intended, all along, for Steven Adamowski.
Apparently the professional staff at the Office of Policy and Management was also confused by Goldfarb’s argument on Pryor’s behalf.
According to a packet of emails acquired last week, one OPM analyst wrote back to Goldfarb saying,
Ben [Barnes] forwarded me the memo from the Commissioner to Mark Ojakian [Malloy’s chief of staff] and Ben regarding the staffing plan for implementation of Governor’s reforms. Following a meeting with Ben on it, we would ask that you provide more detail as to how this can be accomplished within the budget for FY14 and FY15. I assume the 24 new positions outlined in the memo include the 15 that were previously requested…I believe SDE currently has twenty something vacancies, which I assume would go unfilled in order to pay these other 24 positions…
- A new “staffing plan” needed to implement the Governor’s education reforms?
- 24 new positions including the 15 that were previously requested?
- But the State Department of Education already had 20 funded vacancies?
- And all of this time, one of these positions was targeted for Steven Adamowski?
And perhaps the most stunning point of all is that none of this came before the State Board of Education for approval despite the fact that the State Board, with great fanfare, had already approved a major reorganization plan to handle Malloy’s education reforms?
Is there anyone in charge of anything at the State Department of Education?
The new state budget that was approved by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Malloy took effect on July 1, 2013…That budget is the legal framework for the expenditure of all taxpayer funds.
And here, thirty days later, Commissioner Pryor’s office is asking for an entirely new staffing plan for Malloy’s education reform bill…
And none of these important policy issues are reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education —- the entity which is legally mandated to oversee the operation of the State Department of Education?
And we wonder why the people of Connecticut have lost faith in their government.
Alan Taylor, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski Allan Taylor, Malloy. Stefan Pryor, State Board of Education, Steven Adamowski
On September 4, 2013, the Connecticut State Board of Education met. One of their agenda items was the “Extension of Term: Special Master, New London Public Schools; Windham Public Schools.”
Upon the recommendation of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the State Board of Education, led by Chairman Allan Taylor, voted to grant Steven Adamowski a one-year extension in his role as the Special Master for the Windham and New London school systems.
At the time, Pryor announced that it would be moving Adamowski from his position as an employee of SERC (the State Education Resource Center) to that of a state employee within the State Department of Education.
Four days later, on September 10, 2013 it was reported here on Wait, What? that Steven Adamowski had been hired as a $162,000.09, Durational Project Manager back on August 30, 2013….
Five days before the State Board of Education even met to consider whether or not to extend his term as Special Master for the two communities.
Now, according to state documents acquired this afternoon, Commissioner Stefan Pryor was actively working to hire Adamowski weeks and even months before the State Board approved the action.
Memos addressed to the Governor’s Office date back to June 2013 and an August 8, 2013 chart lists Steven Adamowski as the State Department of Education’s number one new position.
The newly released packet of memos and emails lay out a rushed effort to get a position created for Adamowski.
At one point, Adam Goldfarb, Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff writes to an OPM staff person, “…the very time-sensitive durational position we discussed is heading to your approval queue. Could you please do us a favor and look out for it? Need to get it all the way done by Friday?”
The date of the Goldfarb’s email was Wednesday, August 28th, a full week before the State Board of Education even determined that Adamowski’s position would be continued.
The documents reveal even more about this concerted plan to hire Steven Adamowski long before the State Board of Education was allowed to conduct its legally mandated role for the State Department of Education.
Check back for more about this stunning revelation.
Malloy, New London, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham Malloy, New London, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
As if it couldn’t get any more unethical or bizarre, official State of Connecticut documents reveal that “Special Master” Steven Adamowski became a $162,000.09, Durational Project Manager on August 30, 2013….
Five days before the State Board of Education met to receive the Special Master’s report on his work in Windham and New London and to decide whether or not to extend his term as Special Master for the two communities.
As reported here in Wait, What?, the Hartford Courant and other media outlets, Steven Adamowski was given a no-bid $225,000 plus benefits contract through the State Education Resource Center two years ago.
On September 4, 2013, upon the recommendation of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the Connecticut State Board of Education meet and voted to extend Steven Adamowski’s term as “Special Master” for one year.
At the meeting, Pryor announced that Special Master Steven Adamowski would taking a $62,000 pay cut to become a state employee in the State Department of Education, rather than remain an employee of SERC, the State Education Resource Center.
The move by Pryor and the State Board of Education generated a post here entitled What the Hell is going on: Pryor and State Board of Education make Adamowski a State Employee (September 5th)
Yesterday, a follow up article was published entitled News Flash: Mystery solved: Pryor’s appointment of Adamowski as state employee will push up Special Master’s pension! (September 9th). This story reported that the move from SERC employee to state employee would allow Adamowski to boost his pension. The post read, “Well the mystery has finally been resolved and the answer lies in exactly a dozen words deep inside the existing state statutes! Subsection 26 of Section 10-183b of the Connecticut State Statutes defines the term “Teacher” for the purposes of the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System…And subsection (D) of subsection 26 of Section 10-183b provides that “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education” may elect to be in the Teachers Retirement System instead of the State Employees Retirement System. The phrase, “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education” is not limited by whether or not the individual is certified to serve as a teacher or administrator.”
But now comes even more incredible news.
According to the hiring papers filed with the state, Commissioner Stefan Pryor appears to have hired Adamowski BEFORE the State Board of Education even decided whether to extend Adamowski’s term as Special Master.
The hiring documents reveal a hire date of August 30, 2013.
It is not clear how Pryor received the legal authority to hire Adamowski to the $162,000 durational project manager job….
It is even less unclear how Pryor could have managed to hire Adamowski before the State Board even met to consider continuing Adamowski’s status as Special Master.
Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
Tom Drewry is a teacher in the Windham Public Schools and a Willimantic resident. Until recently he held a position with the Windham Federation of Teachers.
Tom is also one of the most articulate, dedicated and forceful advocates for the students, parents, teachers and citizens of Windham.
One of the most important agenda items as this week’s State Board of Education meeting was whether the State of Connecticut should continue to force Windham and New London to suffer under the “oversight” of a “Special Master” and whether Steven Adamowski should continue to serve as the State’s Special Master for those two communities.
The agenda for the State Board of Education’s meeting was published less than 24 hours before the meeting was to be held and during the “public input” portion of the meeting, members of the public were required to limit their remarks to no more than three minutes.
As we’ve learned in recent years, the notion that the State Board of Education is a public entity and its primary purpose is to serve the public seems to be a concept that eludes some members of the Board.
Of course, as we now know, even before the public comments were taken, the members of the State Board of Education had already decided to extend Adamowski’s tenure as Special Master and had even decided to make him a state employee.
The following link will take you to the full written testimony of Tom Drewry. While the State Board doesn’t seem to be impressed or persuaded with the educated assessments from those living under Steven Adamowski’s autocratic rule, the citizens of Connecticut deserve to know the truth.
And it is exactly that truth they will get from reading this testimony.
Windham’s Adamowski Experience: Thomas Drewry, Testimony for State Board of Education 9-5-13
”I also wish to speak briefly against the resolution to extend the term of the Special Master to Windham. I had been checking for an agenda for this meeting for weeks for assurance that the Commissioner’s Network was indeed on the agenda- no sitting member of the Turnaround Committee was ever informed of the meeting, no less asked to attend. When the agenda did appear yesterday, I was surprised to see that also on it was a resolution to extend the appointment of the special master. That such important information was not publicized until last minute seems an indication of a lack of willingness to entertain public input on vital and controversial decisions. It disturbs me further that few people knew that such an extension was required at the point: if I have spoken about the status of the special master position with lawmakers, local board members, lawyers and union officials seeking specifically to find out when and how he is appointed, contracted, evaluated and reappointed. It is an unjustifiably and undemocratically murky process if extensions can be generated with fewer than twenty-four hours for citizens to prepare to deliver testimony at an earning work-morning meeting.
To be straightforward on the central issue, I believe that an extension of the special master’s appointment in Windham is disastrous for my community. The reasons are legion, and include, of course, what I’ve written about above regarding the Commissioner’s Network. Others will flesh-out the story of his destructive reign, though I have spoken and written about it elsewhere.
I feel I must point out that I feel a bit resentful having to make my desperate appeals on matters of education to a board of education on which exactly one educator sits. No other board or committee of this state government is constituted in such way where the non-experts decisively outnumber the professional experts. This is not a statement about the intentions or personal investment of any individual member. Rather, it is a critique of an institutional culture that actively denigrates educators and in the process puts politics before children. I believe that state legislators need to consider a measure that would guarantee that at least fifty percent of the appointees to this board have had substantial classroom experience.”
Note: I urge Wait, What? readers to take the time to read through Tom’s entire testimony. It speaks the truth and lays out the facts in a way that should worry every single parent and citizens of Connecticut.
The actions of Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski and the others pushing Malloy’s corporate education reform agenda are undermining the sanctity of our public education system. The damage is occurring quicker in some towns than in others. Windham and New London are presently “ground zero” in this effort to destroy our public schools….but every public school in Connecticut will be impacted by these so-called “reform” programs.
Again, Tom’s full testimony can be found at http://www.scribd.com/doc/166041994/Windham-s-Adamowski-Experience-Thomas-Drewry-Testimony-for-State-Board-of-Education-9-5-13
Malloy, New London, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham Malloy, New London, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
At yesterday’s State Board of Education meeting Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, recommended that the Board of Education grant Steven Adamowski a one-year extension in his role as the Special Master for the Windham and New London school systems.
And then, in a surprising and extraordinary turn of events, Pryor announced that Special Master Steven Adamowski would become a state employee rather than continue on as a consultant through the State Education Resource Center (SERC), SERC being the agency Pryor used to hand out over half a million in no-bid contracts to various companies that helped him write Malloy’s education reform bill.
As reported by the Hartford Courant’s Kathy Megan, Pryor and his spokesperson explained that Adamowski’s position “belongs” at the state agency. They also announced that Adamowski’s salary would be reduced from $225,000 plus benefits to $162,000 plus benefits in order to make it “comparable to other top-level salaries in the department.”
Wait, What? readers will recall that Governor Malloy’s original education reform bill included special language that would have retroactively added five years to Steven Adamowski’s Connecticut Teachers Retirement Pension.
With the addition of his time as Special Master and his ability to purchase out of state time, the Malloy/Pryor maneuver would actually have increased Adamowski’s annual pension by as much as $35,000 or more per year.
However, as a result of the publicity generated by the media coverage (see Wait, What? blog links below), Connecticut legislators removed the Adamowski gift from the final bill.
Now two years have gone by and, out of the blue, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education announce that Adamowski will be no longer be a paid consultant but will become a state employee and is willing accepting a $63,000 pay cut.
Since Adamowski’s compensation package at the State Education Resource Center included a generous health insurance package, it stands to reason that this latest move is somehow related to trying to boost Adamowski’s taxpayer funded pension. However, it is not clear yet how the move would actually increase the Adamowski’s annual pension.
What is clear is that some extraordinary deal has taken place, but it is a deal hidden from public view.
Connecticut State Government continues to face a fiscal crisis and hundreds of vital state positions are going unfilled including critical vacancies at the state Department of Education.
In fact, the more one understands about the decision to make Adamowski a state employee, the more serious are the questions that are raised.
The Special Master position WAS NOT part of Commissioner Pryor’s infamous departmental reorganization plan that was approved by the State Board of Education in 2012. This means the position for Adamowski doesn’t even exist under Pryor’s operating plan.
Of course, any new senior position would have had to have been approved by the Office of Policy and Management, the Department of Administrative Services and the Governor’s Office. Yet no mention was made yesterday that such a process had been successfully pursued.
Even if a new senior position at the State Department of Education had been created, state laws and regulations would have required some sort of effort to post the position and there would have had to have been some type of recruitment and review process before the state position could have been filed.
But in this case, no position was posted and no recruitment or review process took place leading up to the decision to make Steven Adamowski a state employee.
Equally troublesome is that the decision to make Adamowski a state employee was clearly made prior to the review process that was required before the State Board of Education could extend Adamowski’s role as Special Master.
And all of these issues are clouded by the notion that this effort is somehow related to a renewed attempt to get around the General Assembly’s decision to keep the Malloy administration from boosting Adamowski’s pension by tens of thousands of dollars a year.
The Special Master system is an unfair and destructive program to begin with.
Steven Adamowski, in particular, has used the position to undermine the fundamental rights of students, parents, teachers and local officials in Windham and New London.
The Special Master program should be eliminated but instead, yesterday, the State Board of Education took made a truly unprecedented step to continue the Special Master’s role and reward Steven Adamowski for his failures.
The entire situation should leave the people of Windham and New London, ever very other state employee and every Connecticut taxpayer asking the question….What the hell is going on…?
Governor Malloy has an obligation to immediately step forward and fill in the missing pieces to this controversy.
If Malloy doesn’t reveal what is going down then the Connecticut General Assembly must act to force the Governor and his appointees to come clean on exactly why this inappropriate action has been taken.
You can find the Hartford Courant’s story about yesterday’s meeting here: http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-state-board-education-0905-20130904,0,4111459.story.
And if you want to read more about Malloy’s effort to pad Adamowski’ pension, here are some of the earlier Wait, What? blog posts;
Pension, Pension, who wants a Pension – Steven Adamowski this is your lucky day.
A Hundred Thousand Dollar Plus Pension? The Adamowski Pension Controversy Part II
The Adamowksi Pension Farce: Part III
Heeee’s Back: Malloy Ally Adamowksi Continues to Maneuver for a Larger Teachers Retirement Pension.
The Adamowski Pension: A Story of one Education Reformers Sense of “Entitlement”
Racial Isolation, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Racial Isolation, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
In a recent commentary piece written for the Stamford Advocate and other Connecticut newspapers owned by Hearst Media, Wendy Lecker, the outspoken school advocate wrote about our nation and state’s failure to truly deal with racial isolation in our public schools.
Wendy Lecker’s observations come almost 50 years to the day that Martin Luther King delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The piece is a stunning reminder of how far we are from King’s vision of a better world.
Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Wendy-Lecker-Opportunities-of-school-integration-4721158.php or you can read it below.
“Fifty years ago, Alabama Gov. George Wallace infamously declared, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever,” while Martin Luther King Jr. challenged us to imagine the day when our country’s children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
And here we are, in 2013, witnessing the racist rant of an NFL player, racist jokes by a cooking host and, more tragically, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager, who aroused the suspicion of his killer by being an African-American teenage male with a hoodie in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
All are recent and vivid reminders that racial stereotypes and racism have a strong and enduring grip on our nation. No one can seriously argue that we are living in a “post-racial” society.
In Connecticut, issues of race are ever-present. We have not achieved the goal of providing Connecticut’s children with racially integrated schools. And some of our elected and appointed officials are actually moving us in the wrong direction.
On the front page of The New York Times, Greenwich’s superintendent criticized the state’s racial balancing law as an outdated “civil rights era” discussion. Even though the district’s elementary schools are now segregated, he dismissed the issue, citing the town’s overall high test scores.
Equally if not more appalling, at the state level, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education are on an unrestrained campaign to expand the number of charter schools, leading to even greater racial isolation. In the name of “education reform,” they revive the words of George Wallace and trample upon the dream of Martin Luther King.
Why should school segregation be a concern? Decades of research, based on real-life experiences, prove that integrated education has a profound and direct impact on reducing racial stereotypes and prejudice, lasting into adulthood, for children of all races. Products of school integration are more at ease with people of different backgrounds and seek out integrated environments for their children. In many cases, the impact of integrated school experiences was most evident after the students finished school. Adult graduates of integrated schools have a superior ability to navigate diverse, cross-cultural work and societal settings, as compared to those who were not educated in integrated schools. Moreover, the studies controlled for other factors, making it clear that being in an integrated environment on a daily basis in school was the cause of more tolerant attitudes. Indeed, a substantial number of graduates grew up in segregated neighborhoods and would not have interacted with children of different races otherwise.
Many of the graduates had more positive racial attitudes than their parents. One white woman noted her comfort in any neighborhood in her city, as compared to her mother’s panic when even driving through predominately non-white areas. Graduates overwhelmingly felt that despite any difficulties of integration, such as longer bus rides or occasional tensions, the experience was valuable. Furthermore, the research confirmed that the earlier children are exposed to integrated settings the better.
These graduates understand that some of the most important lessons in public schools extend beyond books. As one remarked: “I think that I learned something there that you can’t teach anybody. … I just learned a lot by being around so many different kinds of people.” Another observed that “I know a lot of people who … test really well, but you put them out in the real world and … they can’t make it.”
The kind of education these students received, that broadened their emotional as well as intellectual horizons, is exactly what our nation’s founders envisioned. As Thomas Jefferson declared, an education that safeguards democracy is one that erases “the tyranny and oppressions of body and mind.”
This comprehensive vision of education has been replaced by a narrow-minded focus on measured results — test scores. So it is no wonder that integrated schools are not a priority for educational policy makers. Consequently, American school segregation is on the rise. Rather than work to reverse this trend, our leaders push programs, such as school choice, that increase segregation.
As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, persistent racism tears at our social fabric. By abandoning school integration, we miss the opportunity not only to ensure a stronger democracy, but to equip all our children with the tools to thrive in our multicultural society and global economy.”
Malloy, State Board of Education, State Representative Susan Johnson, State Senator Don Williams, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham Malloy, State Board of Education, State Representative Susan Johnson, State Senator Don Williams, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
The fundamental principle is pretty simple. We are a nation of laws and when a law requires certain actions, failure to follow those rules is called “breaking the law.”
Incredibly, we seem to have entered a period in which a significant number of public officials seem to believe that they don’t need to follow that basic system.
In Bridgeport the law required Paul Vallas to complete a school leadership program in order to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools. Instead of following the law, Paul Vallas, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education tried to pass off a three-credit independent study class as a “school leadership program.” Unwilling to fulfill their fundamental obligation to follow the law, Connecticut citizens had to sue and a judge ruled Vallas had violated the law. Still unwilling to do the right thing, Vallas et. al. have appealed the decision to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
A similar disregard for Connecticut law is now playing itself out in Windham, Connecticut.
According to documents and emails acquired through freedom of information requests or provided by state and local officials, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski and the State Department of Education are violating the law that provides for the development of school turnaround plans.
The issue is that Governor Malloy’s education reform bill sets up a system of Commissioner’s Network Schools to focus resources on a set of schools that face the greatest challenges when it comes to academic achievement.
The law requires that a “turnaround plan” be developed for each school selected for the Commissioner’s Network and then provides for extra taxpayer funds that must be used to implement that plan.
The legislation was based on the notion that turnaround plans should be locally developed so that they would have the buy-in and support of local parents, teachers, administrators and communities.
However, we are quickly learning that Commissioner Pryor and his education reform entourage are unwilling or unable to contain themselves and have repeatedly overstepped their authority in an ongoing effort to force local communities to adopt their brand of so-called education reform, including the over-reliance on charter schools.
This failure to follow the law, as written, is most evident in Windham.
The language of the law states;
(1) Upon the selection by the Commissioner of Education of a school for participation in the commissioner’s network of schools, the local or regional board of education for such school shall establish a turnaround committee for the school district. To ensure the Commission of Education’s concerns are heard, the law provides for the Commissioner of Education, or the commissioner’s designee, to serve on the turnaround committee.
(2) The turnaround committee shall develop a turnaround plan for such school.
(3) If a turnaround committee does not develop a turnaround plan, or if the commissioner determines that a turnaround plan developed by a turnaround committee is deficient, the commissioner may develop a turnaround plan for such school in accordance with the provisions of this subsection and, if the commissioner deems necessary, the commissioner may appoint a special master for such school to implement the provisions of the turnaround plan developed by the commissioner.
(4) The State Board of Education shall approve the turnaround plan developed by a turnaround committee before a school may implement such turnaround plan.
As noted, the language of the legislation is easy to understand.
In the case of Windham, Commissioner Stefan Pryor appointed one of his new staff members, Gabrielle Ramos; to serve as his representative on the turnaround committee that was formed to develop a plan for Windham’s middle school. The committee spent months developing a sophisticated plan that would have helped transform the school. The committee’s plan was based on proven methods to improve learning and was tailored to the particular needs of Windham’s student population, which has a large percentage of English Language Learners.
However, when it became clear that the turnaround committee’s plan did not include some of the specific reforms that Pryor and his senior team wanted, Pryor’s “turnaround chief,” Debra Kurshan, (who has since left the Malloy administration), orderered changes to be made.
In response, Members of the turnaround committee repeatedly asked Pryor and Kurshan, who have never spent any time in Windham, for an explanation as to why their preferred “reforms” would work better for Windham’s children than the ones they carefully devised based on their years of experience in Windham’s schools. Neither Pryor nor Kurshan ever provided any answers.
Gabrielle Ramos, Pryor’s representative, stopped attending meetings and the turnaround committee was ordered to work with Special Master Steven Adamowski even though he was not a member of the committee and had no legal authority to instruct the committee on what to do.
Emails reveal that Adamowski’s unrelenting and dictatorial approach not only derailed the positive work of Windham’s turnaround committee but prevented the committee from following the process outlined in the law.
As a result of Adamowski’s illegal interference with the turnaround process, the children, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Windham are losing out since the effective turnaround plan that should be implemented is being held hostage by Adamowski inappropriate behavior.
As the situation reaches crisis level, now more than ever, the children and people of Windham need their local legislators, Senator Don Williams and State Representative Susan Johnson to intervene on behalf of their constituents and force Commissioner Pryor and his operatives to follow the law that Williams and Johnson voted for.
Education Reform, Elsa Nunez, Malloy, Mass Insight company, Our Piece of the Pie, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Debra Kurshan, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s education reform and economic development strategy came into greater focus this week with news that a few months ago Stefan Pryor continued his un-ending effort to divert scarce taxpayer funds to consultants.
As previously reported, last month Pryor and his “Chief Turnaround Officer,” Debra Kushan, let go a major portion of the pool of experienced, talented professionals within the Department of Education, Pryor dumped the four Leaders in Residence and three former superintendents who have been providing Connecticut’s poorest districts with the help they’ve needed to improve their educational programing. Instead, Pryor signed a contract with Mass Insight, a well-connected out-of-state consulting company for nearly $1 million dollars.
Connecticut experts with decades of educational experience working with Connecticut educators were replaced by five out-of-state consultants with virtually no experience working with the biggest issues facing poorer school districts; poverty, language barriers and the large number of students who need special education services.
As if that outrage wasn’t bad enough, Pryor and Kurhan then announced that they were transferring the state’s experts on bi-lingual education, English language learning, multi-cultural programing, bullying and improving school climate out of the State Department’s “Turnaround Office.” This time, Alliance Districts are losing direct access to the very experts and services they need to improve academic achievement in districts that are confronting the greatest impact from language barriers, diverse populations and school climate issues.
And now comes news that, only a few months ago, Stefan Pryor quietly signed a contract for more than $1 million with a politically connected organization called the Connecticut Center for School Change.
In the “small world” department, the Connecticut Center for School Change’s Board of Directors includes Governor Malloy’s campaign treasurer, Len Miller,
Other members of the Connecticut Center for School Change include the former CEO of People’s Bank; Elsa Nuñez, the Vice President of Malloy’s Board of Regents and President of Eastern Connecticut State University; Richard Sugarman, Founder and President of The Connecticut Forum whose son just “won” a lucrative contract from Pryor and the State Board of Education to set up an “Our Piece of the Pie” charter school in Windham Connecticut. Another Board member is Dudley Williams, a senior executive at GE Asset Management who once worked for the Connecticut Department of Education and has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Malloy’s Education Reform initiative. Most of the rest of the Board turns out to be other corporate leaders and consultants
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the story behind this new contract.
More details to come…