CEA hires another former Dem. Legislative Leader who helped push through Malloy’s corporate education reform legislation

In an article entitled, “Former House Speaker lands job at teachers’ union,” The CT Mirror’s Jacqueline Rabe Thomas has confirmed the rumors that, “Christopher G. Donovan, the former speaker of the state House of Representatives, has been hired by the state’s largest teachers’ union — the second former legislative leader to land a job at the Connecticut Education Association this winter.”

Donovan, who is the former Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives will be joining former President of the Connecticut State Senate, Don Williams, at the Connecticut Education Association.

Both Donovan and Williams played key roles in helping Governor Malloy pass his ant-teacher, pro-charter school legislation in 2012.

Malloy’s bill not only sought to denigrate and undermine public school teachers and the teaching profession but it mandated the unfair, inappropriate and counter-productive teacher evaluation program that kicks in this year.

According to the CT Mirror story, “Mark Waxenburg, the executive director of the union, said during an interview that Donovan’s background as an organizer for the community college union made him an attractive candidate. The union declined to say how much Donovan would be paid.”

Interestingly, Donovan (and Williams) also supported Malloy’s proposal to combine the Connecticut State Universities and Community College System, a move that is widely credited with severely damaging the 17 public colleges and universities that make up the new Board of Regents System.

The CT Mirror noted that, “Donovan — the house speaker from January 2009 to January 2013 — left the General Assembly after 20 years in office to run for congress in Connecticut 5th district. His campaign crashed after federal authorities indicted two of his highest-ranking campaign officials, among others, on charges that they conspired to hide contributions from businesses hoping to derail legislation.”

In what appears to have been a question about whether their political connections got them the  jobs, the CT Mirror reported that the CEA executive director explained that,  “the former leaders’ qualifications, not their former title in the General Assembly, is what earned them the jobs.”

“We don’t really place any extended value on a person because they served in public office. We look at what they are able to do relative to their history,” Waxenberg told the CT Mirror.

You can read the full CT Mirror story at:  http://ctmirror.org/former-house-speaker-lands-job-at-teachers-union/

State Senator Donald Williams “lands job at teachers’ union”

Congratulations to out-going Connecticut State Senator Don Williams.

According to news reports, the Connecticut State Senator who voted for Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiative, including the unfair and inappropriate teacher evaluation system and the massive increase in the use of the discriminatory Common Core Standardized Testing Scheme has now “landed a job” working for the Connecticut Education Association.

According to the CT Mirror, “Williams was named Monday as the Connecticut Education Association’s deputy director of professional policy, practice, research, and reform.”

“It provides an important opportunity to utilize my policy and outreach skills, combined with my legislative and legal background, to ensure that the teaching profession in Connecticut thrives,” Williams said in a statement. “This is a challenging time for public education. Well-funded national ‘reform’ movements seek to privatize public schools and undermine teacher unions. There is much work to be done to expand educational opportunities for students, support the teaching profession, and help our schools.

By voting for Malloy’s corporate education reform industry proposals, Williams also voted to install Special Master Steven Adamowski in Windham and New London, where the corporate education reform industry aficionado has done incredible damage.

It will be interesting to watch how Williams approaches the job of serving as CEA’s deputy director of professional policy, practice, research, and reform when his own fingerprints are all over the debacle that Malloy and Pryor have been pushing on the students, parents, teachers and public school advocates of Connecticut over the last three years.

And in Windham, parents and teachers speak out against Adamowski

Last week, at a forum sponsored by the Windham Federation of Teachers and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), parents, teachers and other local Windham residents met with State Senator Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-29) and State Representative Susan Johnson (D-49) to voice their outrage about the way “Special Master,” “Special Deal” Steven Adamowski has been undermining Windham’s schools.

Now the question is what are State Senator Williams and State Representative Johnson going to do about what they heard?

The “Special Master” law that Williams and Johnson sponsored was supposed to give Windham (and later New London) additional state support and resources.

Instead, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski has spent millions of dollars in state and local funds to push his corporate education reform industry agenda on the unsuspecting students, parents, teachers and citizens of Windham and New London.

Adamowski’s dictatorial and autocratic approach has angered parents, demoralized teachers, stunned local officials and left the schools in those two communities in chaos.

One of the most serious complaints has been Adamowski’s complete unwillingness to include parents, teachers and local officials in the decision making process.

Adamowski has repeatedly failed to follow Connecticut laws concerning the role of local school governance councils.

In Windham, Special Master Adamowski has completely mishandled the Windham Middle School “Turnaround” process.  After months of work by a committee made up of local parents, teachers and administrators, Adamowski hijacked the process and demolished the locally grown plan by threatening Windham that it would not get state funds unless his proposals were substituted for the ones approved by the local committee.

When the committee balked at Adamowski’ effort, the Special Master, with the help and support of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, threated to reject the plan leaving Windham without the funds it needed.

At the forum, Senator Williams and Representative Johnson also heard about Adamowski’s on-going efforts to reduce or eliminate bilingual and English Language Learner programs in Windham.

Both Windham and New London have seen an influx of families who use a language other than English as their primary language.  Rather than rise to meet that challenge, Steven Adamowski has been forcing policy changes that teachers say are having a profoundly negative impact on students who need extra help to succeed in school.

Adamowski’s long list of failings has been well documented over the past two years.

What has also been well documented are the issues related to the way he has spent state funds.

Adamowski has spent upwards toward $2 million, almost all of it without utilizing appropriate competitive bidding processes.

Numerous consultants and companies that he has done business with in the past have benefited from his largess.

But nobody has benefited more than Adamowski himself.

During the past two years, Adamowski has collected a total salary of $450,000 plus full medical and dental insurance for both himself and his wife.

The state has also paid for his professional and general liability insurance plus a stipend to pay for his life and disability insurance policies.

In addition to his taxpayer-funded salary and benefit package, Adamowski was given 25 days of vacation time per year, 15 days of paid sick time per year and 3 days of paid personal time per year.  Overall this means that in addition to all the paid holidays, Adamowski was able to use or accrue nearly nine weeks of paid time off each year…that is four and half months of paid time over during the contract period.

And to top things off, just this past August, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor made Steven Adamowski a state employee.  The move was made before the State Board of Education had even decided whether to continue the Special Master’s role and the job Adamowski was given was never posted nor did he have to go through any process to get the position.

At last week’s AFT forum, State Senator Williams and State Representative Johnson heard about all these issues and more.

But to reiterate the obvious, the question is now what are these legislators going to do to stop Adamowski from doing even more damage to their community’s schools.

Senator Williams/Representative Johnson: Windham’s children, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better

[A long but important post] Tomorrow, (Oct 2nd)  State Senator Don Williams and State Representative Susan Johnson are scheduled to meet with their constituents about the damage “Special Master”, “Special Deal” Steven Adamowski is doing to their community.

The children, parents, teacher and taxpayers of New London deserve a similar meeting with their elected officials.

No matter how well intentioned the effort to install a “Special Master” for Windham and New London may have been, legislators should recognize that Steven Adamowski has undermined the fundamental rights of those two communities while significantly damaging the local school systems in the name of corporate education reform.

With virtually no over-sight or appropriate checks and balances, Steven Adamowski has collected more than $500,000 in salary and benefits over the past twenty-four months and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds on no-bid contracts with people and companies he has worked with in the past.

Rather than step in to stop Adamowski’s abuses, state officials, led by the Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, have provided Adamowski with cover.

The latest, and most egregious of these actions was to give Adamowski a six-figure state job before the State Board of Education even voted to extend Adamowski’s role as “Special Master”

Adamowski’s unsupervised expenditures should have been enough to convince legislators to repeal the Special Master legislation.  But sadly, Adamowski’s damage goes far beyond how he has expended public funds.

“Special Deal” Adamowski has earned that name over and over again;  the time has come for Connecticut’s elected officials, and especially Windham’s state legislators to put an end to Adamowski’s reign of abuse.

As State Senator Don Williams and State Representative Susan Johnson review the facts, they should pay special attention to the following issues;

  • The role of “Special Master” was intended to augment local control by administrators, teachers, parents and taxpayers.  It was never intended to destroy the rights of local citizens to run their schools.  In the United States, no one, especially in the Constitution State, deserves to be treated like second class citizen but that is exactly what has happened in Windham (and New London).  When it comes to setting public policy and the use of public funds, Adamowski has consistently undermined the right of self-governance and has conducted himself in an autocratic and dictatorial fashion.
  • Legislators may have believed the Special Master legislation was a mechanism to get more attention and financial support for their district’s schools, but the process has become a tool for Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Steven Adamowski to push their politically driven corporate education reform agenda.  Windham’s students, parents and teachers have become guinea pigs in a failed education reform experiment that undermines the role of teachers, privatizes local education and seeks to pigeon-hole students into pre-determined categories and outcomes.

Adamowski, Pryor and State Department of Education violate Connecticut Law on Windham Turnaround Plan…

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.

Special Master Steven Adamowski helping to ensure Malloy’s defeat…

As we know, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and faux Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas have been engaged in a wholesale effort to alienate Connecticut’s teachers, parents and the tens of thousands of voters committed to public education.

But whatever damage Pryor and Vallas don’t complete, we can count on Special Master Steven Adamowski to ensure that Governor Dan Malloy becomes unelectable.

When teachers, parents and other pro-public education advocates become aware of a series of recent emails authored by Special Master Adamowski, in addition to actions he has taken in Windham and New London, it will become increasingly clear that Adamowski and his defenders at the State Department of Education have continued to disenfranchise students, parents and educators. Adamowski has trampled the rights of teachers, parents and local officials through his unending and potentially illegal manipulation of the Commissioner’s Network and Turnaround programs.

Instead of protecting the public interest, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his soon to be ex-turnaround officer, Debra Kurshan, have allowed Adamowski to consistently disregard or derail portions of Governor Malloy’s education reform law.

The damage could go well beyond Governor Malloy.  If local legislators such as State Senators Don Williams and Andrea Stillman don’t act quickly to protect the interests of their districts, Adamowski’s dictatorial and counter-productive strategies could swamp these popular legislators.

By allowing Adamowski to overrule local officials and the input of local citizens, Senators Williams and Stillman risk suffering significant political fallout since they voted for Malloy’s education reform bill but then failed to ensure that the new law was properly implemented in their districts.

Local State Representatives Susan Johnson (Windham) and Ernest Hewitt (New London) could face similar problems.

According to emails and calls between Steven Adamowski, Debra Kushan and various local officials, the Malloy Administration inappropriately modified and contaminated locally developed turnaround plans in Windham, while equally disregarding required citizen participation in New London.

The resulting plans could inappropriately damage the collective bargaining process and would decimate what could have been locally-developed model programs for educating students in Windham and New London.

The students most at risk from Adamowski’s unilateral intervention in Windham and New London are the large Latino populations in both communities.

While the short-term political fallout will certainly damage Governor Malloy, local state senators and state representatives will also likely be blamed as teachers, parents and pro-education community activists become increasingly aware of the damage being perpetrated by Adamowski, Pryor and Malloy.

Check back in the coming days for additional Wait, What? blog posts that will examine Adamowski’s inappropriate efforts to undermine the Windham turnaround process, as well as his efforts to move New London’s school system in exactly the wrong direction.