Sarah Darer Littman’s MUST READ – “A Discouraging Day for Democracy and Education.”

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In her latest CT News Junkie column, Sarah Darer Littman confronts those that are celebrating their latest efforts to buy up the public policy making process at the federal and state level.

In Washington it was the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the McCutcheon v. FEC case that removes the limit on the amount of money individuals can give to all political campaigns.

In Hartford it was Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education and their ongoing efforts to undermine, demean and demoralize public education while promoting Malloy’s charter school privatization scheme.

Upon watching Malloy’s political appointees in action at the State Board of Education meeting, Sarah Darer Littman concludes,

What we witnessed Wednesday is called “a done deal.” Although both the Courant and the CT Post reported the day before the hearing that Commissioner Stefan Pryor was only going to recommend approving two of proposed charters, once the crowds from Bridgeport and Stamford left, Charles Jaskiewicz asked, “Why are we delaying the opportunity to front-load success? . . . My feeling is all these schools should be approved.” Taylor announced that Pryor just “happened” to have a resolution to approve the two additional schools already prepared.

And thus, the appointed state Board of Education, against the expressed votes of two elected city school boards and with ample evidence of the negative financial impact to the existing public schools in the cities involved, voted to approve these new charter schools.

American democracy is dying and despite their press releases to the contrary, Connecticut Democrats are aiding and abetting its demise as surely as the Republicans who brought the court case of McCutcheon vs. FEC. It will come back to haunt them in November.

As Littman makes clear, public policy has become a commodity to be bought and sold.  Big donors are more than willing to write out the campaign checks and many of our elected and appointed officials are more than happy to do their bidding.

The proof of this corrupt system can be seen right here in Connecticut.

Do take the time to read Sarah Darer Littman’s entire column at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/a_discouraging_day_for_democracy_and_education/

State Board of Education is tone-deaf to needs of the children

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Wendy Lecker, fellow public school advocates and columnist has done it again!

In here latest MUST READ column published in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and other Hearst media outlets, Wendy shines the light of truth on the Malloy administration’s unrelenting effort to undermine and privatize Connecticut public education system.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his political appointees have pushed their corporate education reform agenda.

While Malloy’s effort has paid off in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fund his political aspirations, the blood money has come at the cost of our state’s students, teachers, parents and public schools.

As Wendy Lecker writes, the Malloy anti-public education effort was in full-swing this week as the “Connecticut State Board of Education demonstrated how not to make public policy.”

In a piece entitled “State board tone-deaf to needs of the child,” Wendy explains,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s appointed board trampled local control and democracy by ramming through resolutions that completely disregarded the parents, teachers and communities impacted by their decisions.

Last month, Republican legislators forced a public hearing on legislation calling for a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards until the state could assess the implementation’s financial and educational impact.

Ninety-five percent of parents submitting testimony favored a moratorium on the Common Core, as did 91 percent of teachers, 95 percent of citizens not identifying as parents or teachers and 87.5 percent of local elected officials.

Unfazed by the outpouring of concern, the State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution demanding the immediate implementation of the Common Core and its tests.

In even more arrogant disregard for Connecticut communities, the board approved four new charter schools: Great Oaks Charter and Capital Harbor Prep Charter in Bridgeport, the Booker T. Washington Charter in New Haven and the Stamford Charter School for Excellence in Stamford.

Wendy Lecker adds,

“…the state will divert $85 million dollars over the next few years to charter schools in Bridgeport that serve only 1,600 children. The new charters would drain more than $13 million more from the public schools.

Bridgeport’s board of education and elected parent’s council passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on all charter schools in their city.

These local officials and citizens explained the duty to serve all children in Bridgeport. They noted the flaws in the charter applications, including the serious questions about the companies’ ability to serve students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

Yet the tone-deaf state board voted to force two more charter schools on Bridgeport.

The State Board of Education’s approval of a new charter school in Stamford was equally appalling.

Stamford’s elected board of education voted to oppose the Stamford charter application.

Stamford parents started a petition to oppose the charter school which garnered more than 800 signatures in 48 hours. The Bronx charter school company had a petition up for a month trying to drum up support for the charter, but could only muster 17 signatures.

At the SBE meeting, Stamford officials and parents were united in explaining that Stamford’s integrated schools have closed the achievement gap by double digits in the last seven years. By contrast, the Bronx charter operator has a large and growing achievement gap in its school and offered nothing new to Stamford. In fact, when asked by Stamford’s superintendent why she chose this city, the Bronx operator was unable to respond.

Despite the evidence, the state board voted to give the charter school company more than $4 million for a school of only 392 students while leaving Stamford’s 16,000 public school students underfunded.

Wendy Lecker concludes her column with,

As Bridgeport resident and former NAACP president Carolyn Nah testified, “all children” does not just mean all children in charter schools — it means all public school students. Something is wrong when political appointees in Hartford favor a handful of students, trampling the decisions of democratically elected representatives and parents who are in our schools every day, working to protect the educational interest of every child.

Please take the time to go read the full column and send it to families and friends by going to: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-State-board-tone-deaf-to-needs-of-the-5378068.php

 

Malloy administration lines up votes to re-endorse the Common Core

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Sometimes it is hard to know what to say…

Maybe Dannel “Dan” Malloy is simply on a mission to alienate as many parents, teachers and public school advocates as possible before he faces the electorate this coming November.

Or maybe the pay-off in campaign contributions is so great that it is worth selling ones soul to the corporate education reform industry.

Whatever the reason or reasons, before Malloy’s State Board of Education votes to divert millions of taxpayer funds to charter schools at its meeting tomorrow in Hartford, Board Chairman Alan Taylor will call for a vote so that the Malloy administration can re-commit itself, our state, our schools and our children to the Common Core.

While reasonable people can debate the merits of having a common set of educational standards, the truth is that Connecticut has had a long history of ensuring that our schools are guided by strong, evidence based, state educational standards.  Those standards have been improved over time through an open process that allows public participation and seeks to promote consensus building.

But thanks to George W. Bush and Barak H. Obama a decision was made in Washington D.C. to institute a top-down set of national standards that would apply to every state.  Except, of course, six states refused to participate and word is that Indiana just pulled out of the Common Core.

So now our “sort-of” national standards are being implemented.

But as teachers, school administrators, parents, students and taxpayers are learning, the hard way, a new set of “national” education standards has its benefits and its downsides.

In the midst of this debate comes news that Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education, with no public hearing and no notice to school districts, administrators, teachers or parents, will re-commit us to the Common Core with a vote at tomorrow’s State Board of Education meeting.

As I said, sometimes it is hard to know just what to say…

Here is the resolution that the State Board of Education will be adopting tomorrow;

Connecticut State Board of Education – TO BE PROPOSED: April 2, 2014  

Whereas, The State Board of Education (“Board”) is charged by law to ensure that all students shall have equal opportunity to receive a suitable program of educational experiences that prepares them for success in higher education and the workplace; and

Whereas, The Board is mindful of and concerned with inequities within and across classrooms throughout the State of Connecticut that unfairly impact students’ chances for success in Grades K-12 and in their future; and

Whereas, The State Board remains committed to implement the educational interests of the state by promoting the continuous improvement of education and providing leadership and support to school districts; and

Whereas, Toward this end, in July 2010 the Board adopted the Common Core State Standards, which are higher in rigor and more closely aligned with college and career expectations than the prior standards; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the State Board of Education stands firm in its belief that full and immediate implementation of the Common Core State Standards is necessary, and pledges its commitment to provide the necessary leadership, supports and resources for educators, students, and families, to ensure its success.

Attn: Steve Perry – It’s called the CT Code of Professional Responsibility for School Administrators

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As a certified school administrator in Connecticut you have the legal and moral obligation to uphold this code.  But the record increasingly reveals that Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry and the other administrators at Capital Preparatory Magnet School have consistently failed to meet the most basic elements of this code.

For example, section (b) of the Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for School Administrators explains school administrator’s “RESPONSIBILITY TO THE STUDENT.”

According to the code, “The professional school administrator, in full recognition of obligation to the student, shall… (2) Recognize, respect and uphold the dignity and worth of students as individuals and deal justly and considerately with students;

Humiliating, demeaning and degrading students is not a part of the process of recognizing, respecting and upholding the dignity and worth of students as individuals or dealing justly and considerately with students.

By forcing students to stand while eating lunch, seating them at the “Table of Shame” or forcing them to stand facing the wall are all extreme examples where Steve Perry and other school administrators at Capital Preparatory are failing to fulfill their fundamental obligations as required by Connecticut’s code of professional responsibility for school administrators.

As every school administrator is required to understand, as a result of Connecticut State Law, the Connecticut Department of Education, the Connecticut State Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly’s Legislative Review Committee adopted State Regulation number 10-145d-400b.

These regulations are better known as the “Connecticut Code of Professional Responsibility for School Administrators.”

According to the preamble to the regulations, “The principles set forth in this code are intended to guide the conduct and assist in the appraisal of conduct for the members of the profession and the public they serve….”

[…]

“The code adheres to the fundamental belief that the student is the foremost reason for the existence of the profession.  Administrators must focus the energies of schools on student learning above all else. In addition, the code recognizes the responsibility of administrators to the public, their colleagues and all staff members to foster high standards for professional educators, provide leadership, encourage diversity in curriculum and staff, and promote a quality educational program. By setting forth a code of professional responsibility for school administrators separate from the code applicable to teachers, there is a recognition of the similar but different responsibilities that the two groups have to the students they serve. Both codes seek to codify standards for the education profession to promote a quality system of education for the students in our state. The additional responsibility an administrator accepts in the performance of his or her duties is reflected in this code.

Once again, Section (b) lays out in clear and concise language a Connecticut school administrator’s “RESPONSIBILITY TO THE STUDENT.”

Subsection (2) of Section (b) of the regulations REQUIRE that “The professional school administrator, in full recognition of obligation to the student, shall…recognize, respect and uphold the dignity and worth of students as individuals and deal justly and considerately with students;”

Mr. Perry, Capital Prep’s other school administrators, parents, students, teachers and members of the community can find this regulation at: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/cert/ethics/code_administrators.pdf.

It is also important that Perry and his associates recognize their obligation to student’s families.

Section (e) of the code lays out that RESPONSIBILITY TO THE STUDENT’S FAMILY.

The section reads: “The professional school administrator, in full recognition of the responsibility to the student’s family, shall: (1) Respect the dignity of each family, its culture, customs and beliefs; (2) Promote and maintain appropriate, ongoing and timely written and oral communications with the family; (3) Respond in a timely fashion to families’ concerns; (4) Consider the family’s perspective on issues involving its children; (5) Encourage participation of the family in the educational process; and (6) Foster open communication among the family, staff and administrators.

It would appear that the Connecticut State Board of Education would rather turn a blind eye on Mr. Perry’s outrageous actions but as a certified school administrator, the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education have the legal, moral and ethical responsibility to investigate Mr. Perry’s conduct and take action to hold him accountable for consistently violating the CT Code of Professional Responsibility for School Administrators.

UPDATED: Secret Deal for Malloy Political ally turns Education Funding Formula into a joke

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Note Correction about Bridgeport Board of Education Agenda Item:

Apparently without the approval of the State Board of Education or the approval of the Connecticut General Assembly, the Malloy administration is planning to provide Malloy ally, Mayor Bill Finch, with a special deal so that he doesn’t have to have the City Bridgeport meet the state law concerning their minimum budget expenditures for local education. The law is called the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR)

Municipal leaders and taxpayers across Connecticut are well aware of the fact that in order for a community to receive state education funds they must provide a minimum level of local funding.

In that way, communities must uphold their responsibility to provide resources for local public schools.

The requirement to meet the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) has forced local officials in some communities to raise property taxes on multiple occasions.

But according to late breaking news, Governor Malloy, his budget director and his Commissioner of Education have come up with a unknown mechanism to try and let Bridgeport off-the-hook for providing their schools with sufficient local funding.

What makes the whole situation even stranger is that details are being released by the Mayor of Bridgeport on a Sunday and not by Malloy, the Office of Policy and Management or the State Department of Education.

The Bridgeport Board of Education is scheduled to vote late tomorrow – Monday – November 25, 2013 on an agenda item entitled “Approval of Resolution and Letter Regarding Minimum Budget Requirement, 2013-14.”  The AGENDA ITEM IS NOT A MOTION to support Finch’s plan but exactly the opposite.  It is a motion requesting the City of Bridgeport ALLOCATE the required funds to balance the school budget and meet the Minimum Budget Requirement.  Finch’s move is actually meant to undermine the Board of Education’s expected action tomorrow.

Instead of waiting until tomorrow, the Bridgeport Mayor’s Office put out a Sunday press release outlining SOME of the details about the deal between Finch and the Malloy Administration.

But the information released to date fails to indicate how the plan could proceed without the approval of the State Board of Education or the General Assembly, the two entities with the authority to make education policy in the State.

According to a new headline the blog “Only in Bridgeport,” Finch Announces Agreement With State To Resolve Education Funding.”

The blog post adds,

“Mayor Bill Finch on Sunday issued a news release informing that the State Department of Education and the city have reached a resolution for the city to comply with the mandated Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR). News release from Finch follows that also includes a joint letter to the city from State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and state budget director Benjamin Barnes who worked as chief financial officer of Bridgeport schools before Governor Dan Malloy appointed him secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.

The State Department of Education and the City of Bridgeport have agreed on Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR) terms. The resolution of the MBR is as follows:

*The state recognized the level of effort made in $1.2 million worth of tangible, in-kind services to the Bridgeport Board of Education and is crediting that amount toward the FY2013-14 MBR compliance amount;

*The City also will make an additional $1.1 million contribution to the Board of Education in the form of a reduction in the Board’s required contribution for Worker’s Compensation indemnity payments for non-certified staff; and,

*The State will make an additional $1.2 million contribution to the City by the end of the fiscal year for the purpose of further supporting the Bridgeport Public Schools.

The blog post also include the “full text of the letter received by the City of Bridgeport from the State Department of Education and the Office of Policy and Management follows”

The letter from Malloy’s Budget Director and Education Commissioner reads as follows:

Dear Mayor Finch:

Thank you for your ongoing engagement with us regarding the City’s contribution to the Bridgeport Public Schools and the Minimum Budget Requirement. We all share a deep commitment to your community and its schools, and are hopeful that our discussions have led us to a positive way forward.

These discussions are especially timely today. In recent years, the State has made extraordinary financial contributions to the Bridgeport Public Schools, which we hope have helped to provide the educational resources that teachers and students need to succeed and, at the same time, have helped to move the district in the direction of budgetary stability. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the division and controversy that have continued to plague the Bridgeport public schools.

We are committed to putting these divisive issues behind us so that the newly elected Board of Education can rededicate itself to the challenges ahead on behalf of Bridgeport’s young people. I know that you share that commitment.

It is clear that the City’s funding for the Board of Education will continue to be a challenge in light of Bridgeport’s fiscal condition. We have identified a way forward that will, we sincerely hope, allow the City to satisfy its obligations, and allow the Board to operate its budget in balance for the 2013-14 school year. It is not ideal, and it will require all parties – the City, the Board, and the State – to make some contribution. But it can be sufficient to allow all parties to turn their attention from past conflicts to our aspirations for the future.

In summary, our tentative plan is to make up for the $3.3 million in MBR shortfall as follows:

1. The City has demonstrated tangible in-kind contributions in the Board’s favor over the last two years which have provided significant budget relief to the Board. The City reasonably expected that those contributions would count toward FY 14 MBR compliance. As a result, the state will credit these contributions against the MBR and adjust the MBR requirement downward by $1.2 million, once necessary documentation is satisfactorily provided to the SDE.

2. The City will make a further contribution to the Board this year in the form of a $1.1 million reduction in the Board’s required contribution for Worker’s Compensation indemnity payments for non-certified staff. This will allow the Board to redeploy existing funds budgeted for that purpose to other areas. The City will provide such detailed assurances as needed by the Board that the City will make up the claims liability, and that this contribution will not impact the Board’s future contributions to the Internal Services Fund or otherwise deplete current or future resources of the school system.

3. The state remains committed to providing assistance to fiscally challenged communities so that they can maintain support for their schools. As part of this effort, the State Department of Education will provide the City with $1.2 million by the end of the fiscal year for the purpose of further supporting the Bridgeport Public Schools. All of these monies must be appropriated by the City to the Board for that purpose prior to the end of the fiscal year. This assistance will be contingent upon the successful completion of all other components by the City of the plan laid out in this letter.

4. Finally, the City, will commit to recommending and diligently working to enact a City budget for FY 15 that complies with the MBR and all local spending requirements, and to working with the Board to develop a long-term strategy for City support of the public schools.

Again, we are hopeful that this plan, and the new resources and partnership that it represents, will serve Bridgeport’s students and help the newly-elected Board to be successful.

Kind regards,

Stefan Pryor
Commissioner,
State Department of Education
 
 Benjamin Barnes
Secretary
Office of Policy and Management

 

Why Malloy, Stefan Pryor or Ben Barnes think such a deal wouldn’t need the approval of the State Board of Education or the Connecticut General Assembly is a mystery.

Furthermore, how Governor Malloy could give this tax break to his political ally, Mayor Bill Finch, and not make it available to property taxpayers in Connecticut’s other economically hard hit communities is also unclear.

Two key questions about Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee (From Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)

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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?

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor gets an “A” for stacking the deck (By Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)

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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.

“Special Deal” Adamowski state job was not part of Pryor’s “Sweeping Reorganization Plan”

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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.

Let’s just name him Steven “Special Deal” Adamowski and call it a wrap…

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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.

NEWS FLASH: Steven Adamowski hired as state employee before State Board of Education met to extend Special Master’s role.

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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.

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