Today’s “MUST READ” Columns on the Malloy/Pryor Charter School scandals

Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)

Another week, and another education scandal here in the Nutmeg State. The FBI served subpoenas on charter school operator FUSE last Friday morning, and shortly after their visit Hartford Courant reporters found the receptionist shredding documents. “Asked what was being shredded, she said the documents were associated with the state-subsidized Jumoke charter schools.” Obstruction of justice, anyone?

Meanwhile, after the notoriously opaque state Department of Education declined to issue reporters a copy of their own FBI-issued subpoena, the Courant received this statement Monday from Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly: “We have been assured that the department is not a subject of this investigation.” Okay then. That’s clear.

Yet by Tuesday, it was another story. Apparently, the subpoena seeks, among other things, “All emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor” since January 2012.

Read the complete piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_another_week_another_scandal/

 

A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)

It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.

Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.

And now — New London. In 2012, Pryor decided to take over New London’s school district. His pretext was that the school board was dysfunctional and “rife with personal agendas.” Pryor never provided any causal relationship between the board’s behavior and student performance.

On the contrary, Pryor acknowledged that “many of the problems of New London and the New London School District are the direct result of economic decline and poverty.”

Instead of providing New London with adequate resources, the Malloy administration, through Pryor, appointed Steven Adamowski as New London’s powerful special master.

Adamowski was simultaneously the special master of another impoverished district, Windham. Adamowski’s reign in Windham was characterized by pushing unproven reforms while gutting services that actually helped children. He cut funding for Windham’s successful pre-K program and reduced the capacity of Windham’s bilingual program-even though over a quarter of the students are English Language Learners. He pushed the use of Teach for America, replacing experienced local teachers with temporary recent college graduates; and promoted “choice” for a select number of parents who could afford transportation to an out-of-district school.

 Read the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-charlatan-in-charge-of-children-5647661.php

 

Search Firm Faulted For Overlooking ‘Ph.D.’ Claims In Carter’s Past; Says It Will Make Good (By Jon Lender)

You’re in front of a Google search screen. You type in “Terrence Carter” — in quotation marks — and then add Chicago, his hometown. Hit “Enter.”

On the first page of results there’s a link for some speakers’ biographies for a 2011 education conference. One of the “Presenter Biographies” is about “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and it says he holds doctorate from Stanford University — which he doesn’t.

That’s the process that The Courant went through two weeks ago, finding a public document listing Carter as the holder of a doctorate — several years before his scheduled receipt next month of a Ph.D. from an accredited institute, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

Expanding the search terms slightly — to combinations such as “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and Dr. Terrence P. Carter” — yielded a dozen such references.

A member of the search team Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson — a Nebraska-based human resources consultant — said she didn’t come up with any Ph.D. or Dr. listing. Carter was never asked about those references during the application process that led to his selection last month by New London’s Board of Education for the job of school superintendent effective Aug. 1.

As a result, the questions that could have been asked in the relatively relaxed setting of a job interview now will be asked in an overheated pressure-cooker situation. The school board Thursday night postponed a vote to approve a contract with the superintendent’s job and ordered its law firm to investigate Carter’s background. The probe is expected to take a month.

The action came after a series of Courant stories starting July 18 raised questions about Carter’s use of the titles Ph.D. and Dr. dating back at least to 2008.

Some officials and citizens in New London said they are wondering why the search consultant that pledged in March to perform “extensive background checks” on the candidates didn’t turn any of this stuff up.

“Why did it take someone from the Hartford Courant to vet the whole situation?” New London resident Eric Parnes asked the school board at its meeting Thursday night.

Read the complete article at: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-carter-resume-0727-20140726,0,1585462.column

 

And one more – file this one under – What the heck was “Dr.” Terrence Carter and the corporate education reform industry geniuses thinking?

PDF: Comparison Of Terrence P. Carter’s 2011 And 2014 Biographies

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Goose vs. Gander: The double standard for teachers and superintendents

Last week, Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto, sent a letter to the Hartford Board of Education (her employer) saying,

“I will not engage in political debate with board members…My duty, my sole concern, is for the academic and career success of our Hartford school children and youth.”

Meanwhile, rather than take calls from the media, she directed that all calls about the situation be referred to her attorney.

Although the immediate debate was about whether Kishimoto was communicating sufficiently with the Hartford Board of Education, the real impetus behind the superintendent’s bizarre and incredible letter was the performance evaluation that the Board of Education’s recently concluded.

Last year, the Board of Education and the Superintendent agree to an evaluation process that was based on a variety of indicators and measures.

Of the 10 student achievement targets that Superintendent Kishimoto was to be evaluated on, she “failed to meet most of them.”

On other key measures, the Superintendent was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being unacceptable and 5 noting outstanding performance.

Her score for educational leadership was a rather dismal 3.0.  When it came to engaging stakeholders, such as parents, teachers, community members, she scored a 2.4, and, as for the school board-superintendent relationship, Kishimoto got a failing 1.6 rating.

Considering the Hartford Courant has championed Governor Malloy’s effort to use “teacher evaluations” as the best vehicle to determine which teachers to keep and which to let go, one would have reasonably expected that any Courant editorial would take the Superintendent to task for her failing evaluation.

Instead the Courant called on the Hartford School Board and the Superintendent to, “mend” their relationship, and the Courant editorial went on to say, “Ms. Kishimoto knows reform. She’s top-notch at it, as her supporters point out.”

Failure to meet agreed upon achievement targets, low scores on educational leadership and engaging stakeholders, and utter failure to maintain a good relationship with her employer, and the Courant suggests her “top-notch” understanding of reform means she should keep her job?

How much clearer could it be?

Education reformers talk a good game, but refuse to walk the walk.

They demonize teachers and teacher tenure and suggest that teacher evaluation is the single greatest step we can take to turnaround the American education system.  Then they turn the other cheek when one of their own falls flat on the most basic measures of performance and achievement.

And to top it off, Hartford has a superintendent of schools, a public servant, who is pulling down six figures, who has the audacity to say to the Board of Education, “I will not engage in political debate with board members…”?

Perhaps the Superintendent missed the college class when students were taught that political debate is the discussion of policy options and, in this case, the role of the Board of Education to make appropriate policy decisions as the formal legislative body of Hartford’s school system.

We’re not talking about name calling or character assassination; we are talking about the most fundamental role of the superintendent – board of education relationship.

Her claim that she is somehow above engaging in “political debate”  suggests that she doesn’t know the meaning of the term, doesn’t understand the role of the Board of Education or apparently feels that the obligation of democratic governmental systems simply don’t  apply to her.

Between her inappropriate letter and her scores on her recent evaluation, she certainly appears unable to successfully perform her job.

If those who believe that “evaluation” is the measure of who should stay and who should be let go, then Hartford‘s Superintendent of Schools should be packing up her office and looking for another job.

For more background see the Courant article and editorial – http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-kishimoto-eval-0928-20120927,0,4935745.story and  http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-superintendent-turmoil-in-hartford-schools-20120927,0,5491532.story

“Journalism is what maintains democracy…”

So said the lawyer, author and activist Andrew Vachss.

Through the years many others have said similar things about what may be the noblest of professions.

It can be said that the most important thing that stands between democracy and freedom as opposed to totalitarianism is a free press.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is said to have been the first to pass freedom of press laws in 1539 while a national Freedom of the Press Act was first adopted in Sweden/Finland in 1766.

Here in the United States, the freedom of the press was ensured in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

While those freedoms have been threatened from time to time in this country (i.e. the Alien and Sedition Act), the notion that a free nation must have a free press has remained a constant.

But great responsibility comes with the fundamental duties of a Free Press – the most important being to provide balanced, fair and impartial coverage of the news that the People need and have a right to know.

Or, as Walter Cronkite put it, “Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.”

In retrospect, I wish I had chosen the path of journalism instead of politics.  Instead, now tainted with the stench of politics, I am left writing opinion columns.  While there is a role for those as well, nothing compares to the importance of true journalism.

It is for this reason that I find myself so disappointed with some of the media coverage of late, both at the national and state level.

Take for examples the relative coverage some media outlets have given to the issue of the 24 state employees who purportedly lied to get food stamps in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene versus the coverage of the potential that 78,000 Connecticut families who received heating assistance last year will get no help at all with their bills this year versus the coverage of the decision by Attorney General George Jepsen and Governor Dannel Malloy to file a court motion to remove “early childhood education”  from the definition of education  as required by the Connecticut Constitution.

One reasonable measure of how important an issue is – is the amount of coverage it receives.

In the HARTFORD COURANT the controversy surrounding the 24 state employees who may have lied to get food stamps has generated more than 10,000 words of coverage and two major editorials.  By comparison the potential lack of heating assistance for 78,000 Connecticut families has received about 2,000 words while the extraordinary move by Jepsen and Malloy to limit access to early childhood education has received a paltry 1,000 words.

By comparison the CTMirror, the on-line news outlet has devoted about 2,100 words to the state employees, a significant 3,200 words to the heating assistance story and less than 750 words to the early childhood issue.

And at the same time, CTNewsjunkie, Connecticut’s original and longest running on-line media outlet has had about 3,400 words on the state employee issue, 2,600 on the heating assistance issues and has led the coverage of the early childhood controversy with nearly 2,000 words.

The amount of coverage – does not – in and of itself prove anything – but it begins to tell a disturbing story of what some media outlets determine as more or less important.

The Courant editorial concluded that “Mr. Malloy is right to affirm the need for ethical behavior in state service. State workers have had weak gubernatorial leadership for the past 20 years. Mr. Malloy is wise to get their attention, before things get worse.”

And for his part, Governor Malloy told reporters that he intends to change the culture of state government, adding “this administration exists to serve the taxpayers and not ourselves.”  Malloy went on to say “I know that culture once existed in state government. It doesn’t anymore.”

Those are certainly dramatic and powerful words, but are we supposed to believe that the alleged actions of 24 state employees represent a culture of corruption?   As one of my Facebook friends noted, 24 state employees out of approximately 50,000 represent 0.048 percent.

Imagine the outcry if the Governor or any public figure made such a grandiose generalization of any other group based on the actions of less than .05 percent.

While those who cheat and steal, state employee or not, should be punished to the fullest extent of the law it is rather absurd to imply that the actions of a minuscule percentage represent the moral standing of the majority.

In fact, such an comment is nothing short of stupid.

But even worse was the attempt by the Governor Malloy to present the evidence in a way as to imply that the problem was far more widespread than the potential illegal actions of a few.

In hastily called and rare Sunday news conference Malloy said “I’m making this announcement because we believe that fraud has been perpetrated by a number of individuals” reported the Governor.

That number, as he knew, was 24.

The number of murders this year in New Haven has been greater and no Sunday press conference was called to offer opinions about that fact.

Yes, the Governor should be taking reasonable action to root out corruption and the media should give those steps appropriate coverage.

But is the action of 24 state employees worth 10,000 words in the Hartford Courant at the same time Connecticut’s paper of record has given 1/5th that amount of coverage to the potential that 78,000 of Connecticut’s most vulnerable families will go through this coming winter without the financial help they need.  While, at the same time, Connecticut’s leading news outlet provided the early childhood controversy with just 10 percent of the coverage given to those 24 state employees.

The people of Connecticut deserve better; Connecticut’s Free Press must do better.

Look for Part II of this column tomorrow.

Courant Editorial Joins Malloy – Claims It’s all the State Employee’s Fault

(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

The Hartford Courant, in its July 16, 2011 editorial wrote “Don’t Blame Malloy For Deep Budget Cuts” and added that “The scope of the state budget cuts ordered this week by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is breathtaking. But they are made necessary by the failure of the state’s employee unions to make reasonable concessions in their benefits and wages.”

According to the Courant, “Blame the job losses, the state office closings and the decline in public services on the public employee unions that rejected a generous compromise on benefits and wages.”

And they concluded that “The governor’s only remaining option was severe cuts and layoffs.”

The Governor’s PR people could not have done a better job if they had written the editorial themselves.

Rather than provide readers with a reasoned, fair assessment of the situation, Connecticut’s “Newspaper of Record”, overlooked the facts, side stepped the truth and joined Malloy in the sport of making Connecticut’s public employees the scapegoat for the state’s problems.

They could have, at the very least, highlighted the reasonable concerns that had been raised about the Malloy/SEBAC agreement.

Alternatively, they Courant editorial writers could have told the truth and observed that the Governor could have returned to the bargaining table, resolved those problems and gotten an agreement.

Instead, like Malloy did in February and again more recently, the paper took the easy way out and simply claimed – as a matter of fact – that the state employees were responsible for the Governor’s decision to shred the state’s safety net.

Making public employees has traditionally been the favorite practice of the right-wing, but this year it has become a fad enjoyed by politicians and editorial writers across the political spectrum.

Actually the Hartford Courant has engaged in public employee bashing before.

Just last year (February 2010), the Hartford Courant rationalized its opposition to a bill that would allow legal notices to be published on-line instead of in printed in the newspaper by claiming that “if passed, the legislation would allow public employees to bury information on websites that is now easily found by readers of daily newspapers.”

The Hartford Courant, whose fundamental responsibility is to tell the truth, has been a leader in the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association’s effort to defeat legislation that would save Connecticut towns, taxpayers and citizens millions of dollars in advertising costs by ending the practice of requiring that legal notices be published in daily newspapers.

And meanwhile, the newspaper that claims that the Governor had no option but to make these terrible budget cuts hasn’t been very forthcoming when it comes to just how much money the public is handing over to the Courant.

In his A Connecticut Law Blog, Attorney Ryan McKeen reported about his experience with publishing a series of identical legal notices.

The cost of the legal notice running in the San Francisco Chronicle was $355.00, the Los Angeles Times charged $403.20 and the Hartford Courant, the smallest circulation of the three, required a payment of $919.00.

Worse, as George Gombossy, noted in his blog CT Watchdog, “The Hartford Courant is the only daily newspaper in Connecticut that charges a higher rate for victims of foreclosure than for anyone else purchasing similar sized ads in its Sunday real estate section.”

According to Gombossy “several newspapers – the New Haven Register, New London Day, Manchester Journal Inquirer, and Waterbury Republican-American – charged less for foreclosure ads than for other, similar sized real estate ads, all other newspapers except for the Courant had the same rates for foreclosure as for regular ads.”

Gombossy, who worked for the Courant for 40 years but was fired after raising concerns about a product that was being sold by a big advertiser, has repeatedly pointed out that “the Courant has had a state-sanctioned monopoly over mandated public notices.”

Gombossy also noted that instead of viewing its unique “right” to publish legal notices as a “public service” and charging reasonable rates, the Courant has long gouged municipalities and taxpayers for those ads.

What a sad state of affairs.

The Hartford Courant has been helping to pay for lobbyists to ensure that state law continues to require taxpayers to subsidize its business and the paper has even used its editorial wage to back up that lobbying effort.

Yet now it claims that Governor Malloy had no option but to shred the state’s safety net and lay off thousands of state employees.

The Courant editorial writers know, as does anyone who cares about the truth, that the Governor had and continues to have many options at his disposal for moving forward and balancing the state budget.

There are many ways to increase revenue and reduce the costs of Government.

However, it is easier and more convenient for Malloy to blame the financial problems on our public employees.

It’s a disgusting tactic that the Courant knows well, since they have used it themselves for their own gain.