A parent speaks out about Teach For America

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There is a lot in corporate education “reform” that astonishes, but perhaps nothing is so astonishing as the strategic deployment of TFA. It’s counter-intuitive that untrained recent graduates will fare better in the classroom than seasoned teachers. And the reason that this notion feels counter-intuitive is quite simple: its contrary to common sense and cool reason. With rare exceptions, there is no way at all that a person with 5 weeks training can take commanding control of the classroom and lead the students with equanimity.

I have known young people who went into TFA, and while I thought highly of them as individuals, I did not think that they were prepared to do a better job of teaching than someone with professional training. There is a reason we have EDUCATION PROGRAMS. Yesterday, we took teaching seriously: we saw it as a profession, a vocation, which makes great demands on its practitioners. We understood that it was no small thing to get up in front of children and then ask them to follow you. But today we–meaning “they”!!–have completely trivialized teaching. They have decided that teaching is just like brushing your teeth or driving your car: just about anyone can do it!

TFA is insidious for a number of reasons. It’s an integral part of the corporate plan to de-professionalize teachers and to bring them under strict management control. Professionalism is anathema to the corporate types because professionals have too much workplace autonomy. We can’t have that in our brave new schools of “accountability.” Professionals typically form unions. And this is the real value of TFA for the “reformers”: it allows management to go around union contracts by using “contract labor”–i.e., the TFA cohort. And it will always be true that people on short term contracts are more vulnerable, more pliable and less invested in their place of employment. In short, TFA gives management a considerable degree of “flexibility.”

And TFA is not the best option for students. As Jon Pelto says, there are many unemployed teachers in Connecticut. If Hartford BOE has money to spend, it should spend it on real teachers for the benefit of the children. TFA is not only part of union busting, it is also, sad to say, an engine for increasing the ghettoization of the ghetto. When TFA went to New Orleans, thousands of public school teachers were laid off, many of them people of color, whose middle class jobs were crucial for the stability of certain neighborhoods. When these people lost their jobs, the impact on their communities must have been terrible. I’m sure the same thing will happen in Hartford, albeit on a much smaller scale. But Hartford needs every good job that it currently has, as the city’s economy is anything but promising.

Superintendent Kishimoto (in league with Stefan Pryor) is wreaking havoc on Hartford’s future. She is taking from the needy to give to those who are already glutted. TFA is a rich organization, backed by powerful wealthy people; it does not need a penny of public money. If they want to send “brilliant young people” to the poorest school districts, let them pay for it!

One hopes that some of the young people recruited to TFA will wake up and see the light. I understand that many have good intentions, but they have to realize that they are being used. I told one person I know who was in TFA that she should immediately disabuse herself of the idea that she was going to “save poor kids in the ghetto.” What could she know as someone who grew up with wealth what it is was like to live in a distressed community like Hartford? TFA encourages their “bright young things” to think of themselves as “game changers.” In my view, this is little else than an incitement to willful innocence or disgusting arrogance. And what is more, when the TFA “teacher” has a hard time of it and is forced to revise her “idealism,” it is easy to see that she might become bitter and cynical–hardly the attitudes you want in a leader of children…

I always say if TFA is so great then send them to the wealthy districts like Avon and Farmington, and the veteran teachers in those communities can come and teach in places like Hartford and Windham. Of course, I am well aware this would never happen!

“I am in control here” – A day in the life of Special Master Steven Adamowski

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 “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House.” – Alexander Haig, Secretary of the State

It was March 30, 1981 and an assassination attempt sent President Reagan to the hospital.

Secretary of the State Al Haig called a press conference at the White House to announce, “Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.”

But of course, Al Haig had his facts wrong since the US Constitution requires that the line of succession is the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and then the Secretary of State.

The Haig moment is often used as a metaphor when someone inappropriately attempts to take power or control.

Just such a moment occurred earlier this week when Governor Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and Windham, Steven Adamowski, informed the New London Board of Education that he and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were the ones truly in charge when it came to selecting a new local superintendent of schools for New London.

As reported by The Day newspaper of New London, Peg Curtin, the head of the New London Board of Education explained, “I would like to see the community be involved…”I would just want to make sure everyone is heard.”

The newspaper then goes on to report that, “As a result of the state’s involvement in the city’s school system, Adamowski said, he or the state commissioner of education could review the candidates the board decides to interview and eliminate any they find to be unqualified.”

Adamowski explained, “We will not be in a situation where I or the commissioner is in a position of having to veto something the board wants to do or tell you not to do something…We would like to simply make sure that the depth and quality of the candidates that go before you as finalists is sufficient.”

What?

The Connecticut General Assembly authorized the State Board of Education, in very limited circumstances, to name a “Special Master” to help communities improve their schools.  The Malloy administration has used that authority in two cases – Windham and New London.

In both cases the result has been a disaster.

While the title “Special Master” is absurd and insulting, the law was never intended to create a dictator who would be in position to destroy a community’s right to control its schools.

And yet is exactly what has been happening in the two communities.

Adamowski’s rhetoric is nothing short of an “Al Haig moment” and the citizens of New London and Windham better reach out to their local state senators and representatives to insure this modern-day Al Haig doesn’t get away with claiming powers he does not have.

A perfect example of the problem appears in the very same Day article.  The paper reports, “Adamowski has previously recommended that the new superintendent’s salary be set to a competitive level, that he or she be given a three-year contract and that the renewal of the superintendent’s contract be determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets established in the district’s strategic operating plan.”

A superintendent evaluation “determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets?

(AKA standardized test scores).

With that approach, New London parents and their local representative must move quickly to take back control of their schools so they can hire a superintendent who has the ability to fulfill all the duties associated with the job.

Because, as every parent, teacher and school board members understands, a superintendent’s job is so much more than improving test scores.

Superintendents are responsible for recruiting and retaining good administrators and teachers, for making sure special education student get the additional help they need and deserve, for developing and implementing effective bi-lingual and English Language Learning Programs, for improving early education opportunities, for reducing bullying and creating safer school climates, for seeking ways to reduce racial isolation, for ensuring scarce resources are well spent and the list goes on and on.

Despite Steven Adamowski’s apparent wish, Connecticut’s “Special Master” Statute was never intended to allow Pryor, Adamowski or anyone else to make decisions that are solely within the purview of the local Board of Education.

And if Adamowski claims he has special powers then citizens need to ensure legislators act to protect them from that power grab.

Al Haig’s comments that day in 1981 made him the laughing-stock of the world.

Adamowski’s claim that as “Special Master” he has “super powers” is equally absurd.

Or as the case may be, hey Steven, “you’re doing a heck of a job.”

You can find the latest Day article here:  http://www.theday.com/article/20131206/NWS01/312069954/0/SEARCH

And in Windham, parents and teachers speak out against Adamowski

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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

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[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.
  • Sold as a way to institute an additional level of professional management over Windham and New London, the Special Master has spent minimal time in the districts, less time in schools, and virtually none observing teaching and learning.  He has made virtually no effort to get to know the community or is constituencies and has taken no time to learn about the impact his policies are having on the students, parents and teachers who have been forced to live with them. More

Malloy/Pryor; It is time to come clean on “Special Deal” Steven Adamowski

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Why did the Malloy Administration rush through hiring Steven Adamowski?

Why did Adamowski start in his new state position even before the State Board of Education voted to extend his appointment as Special Master for the Windham and New London school systems?

It turns out the answer, at least in part, can be found in the no-bid contract Adamowski was given in July 2011.

More than two years ago, with the support of Windham state legislators, State Senator Donald Williams and State Representative Susan Johnson, the Connecticut General Assembly authorized the creation of a Special Masters position with the adoption of Section 138 of Public Act 11-16.

A month later, without any open, competitive bidding or review process, Malloy’s Acting Commissioner of Education gave the Special Master’s job to Steven Adamowski by directing the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to hire him, a move that later drew a rebuke from the Connecticut State Auditors.

The contracted, signed July 25, 2011 provided that Adamowski would begin on August 15, 2011 and that, “The Agreement term shall be from August 15, 2011 to August 14, 2013.”  The amount of Adamowski’s compensation was set at $450,000 for the two year period.

Fast-forward two years later…

By stuffing Steven Adamowski into a state position effective August 30, 2013, the Malloy Administration was ensuring that Steven Adamowski wouldn’t miss a pay-period despite the fact that his no-bid SERC contract ran out effective August 15, 2013.

Although Adamowski has been making $4,327 every two weeks for the past two years, Commissioner Stefan Pryor cut corners to put Adamowski on the state payroll effective August 30, 2013 even though the State Board of Education hadn’t even voted to extend Adamowski’s term as “Special Master.”

Was the State Board of Education taken for a ride or worse, did they know that a special deal with Adamowski was already a done deal and chose not to say anything?

On September 4, 2013, the State Board of Education, under the leadership of Board Chairman Allan Taylor, voted to extend Adamowski’s contract as Special Master.  At the time, neither Pryor nor Taylor publically informed the State Board of Education or the public that Adamowski had already been hired by the state.

In fact, Pryor clearly implied, and his public relations staff confirmed to the media, that the vote would allow Pryor to hire (future tense) Adamowski as a state employee.

However, a set of state emails acquired this week reveal that Pryor’s staff was already working feverishly to get Adamowski on the state payroll long before the State Board of Education voted to allow Adamowski to continue his role as Special Master.

In an email dated Wednesday, August 28, 2013 (5:47 p.m.), for example, Stefan Pryor’s Chief of Staff, Adam Goldfarb, wrote to Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management saying, “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!  Thank you, Adam.”

The entire episode raises numerous questions, but the most significant question of all is what did the State Board of Education know and when did it know it?

If would be disturbing indeed if the State Board of Education knew about this charade and remained silent.

Special Master Steven Adamowski’s wild spending spree with Connecticut’s tax dollars

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Since the Malloy administration gave Steven Adamowski his no-bid contract to serve as “Special Master” for Windham and New London, Adamowski has collected a salary of about $450,000 for himself and another $168,000 for his staff.  Add in over $140,000 more for health and insurance benefits, $17,000 for travel and $29,000 for equipment and it starts to become clear just how much Connecticut’s taxpayers are “investing” in Adamowski and his “management style.”

Equally troublesome is Adamowski’s free hand with the state’s check book.

According to documents collected from a series of recent Freedom of Information requests, over the past two years, Adamowski has been on a massive spending spree of public funds in his capacity as “Special Master.”

In addition to ordering local officials in Windham and New London about how they should be spending their funds, Adamowski has his own stash of state funds to play with.

Over the past two years Adamowski has spent $132,000 on engineering projects and studies with a company called Friar Associations (There was no competitive bidding conducted related to those projects).  Another engineering company, Gale Associates out of Weymouth, Massachusetts picked up another $15,250 courtesy of Adamowski.

The Center for Reform of School Systems, a consulting group out of Houston, Texas was given $39,000 in a no-bid contract to “provide 6 additional days of service for New London Special Master Grant Program.”

And the National SAM Innovation Project, a consulting operation out of the Jefferson County Public School System in Louisville, Kentucky collected $12,700 in another no-bid contract for services.

The law firm of Shipman & Goodwin received $34,000 (no-bid contract) and Adamowski dropped $12,370 on a company called Telogis for some refurbished computers, which came on top of his $29,000 equipment budget.

The organization called Leadership Greater Hartford was paid $34,000 to train Windham’s local school governance councils which is particularly ironic since Adamowski has consistently refused to include the school governance councils in key decision making, despite a Connecticut law that requires these local councils of parents, teachers and citizens to be consulted.

Another direct beneficiary of Adamowski’s spending has been CompassLearning, the Dallas based corporate entity that owns the rights to sell site licenses for the so-called Renzulli Academy.  Despite very strong opposition to Adamowski’s push to open Renzulli Gifted and Talented schools in Windham and New London, CompassLearning was paid $22,500 in public funds for Renzulli Annual Site Licenses for ALL Windham schools.

The Connecticut Science Center, the publicly funded science museum in Hartford, which was supposed to “partner” with Windham’s new STEM Magnet School, was paid more than $90,000.

And Teach for America collected a finder’s fee of at least $35,000 from Adamowski, on top of the $33,000 that Teach for America received from the Windham School System.  Wait, What? readers may recall that while TFA charges most cities $2,500 to $3,000 for each TFA recruit they place in a local school, Adamowski signed a deal with Teach for America that guaranteed them $4,000 per TFA recruit.

Add in another $72,000 for computer based “MAP Assessment testing” and tens of thousands of dollars that are simply listed as “teacher stipends” or “professional development” and we start to get a clearer picture of how the “Special Master” is spending taxpayer funds in a “special way.”

Perhaps the oddest expense of all are two checks totaling $125,000 that were written as part of Adamowski’s on-going effort to “persuade” the Town of Windham to purchase the propriety municipal finance software called MUNIS.  Adamowski has been engaged in a similar effort to force New London to choose MUNIS as their software vendor.

It all bring us back to the key question of why Connecticut’s legislators or Connecticut’s auditors haven’t stepped in to put a stop to Adamowski and his no-bid, no-rules spending spree of our scarce public funds.

Adamowski Pension Charade continues

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On August 29, 2013, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski was completing his second year under a $225,000 no-bid contract that the Malloy Administration had run through the State Education Resource Center.

The next day, August 30, 2013, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski was a Connecticut state employee, holding the title of Durational Project Manager.

Same duties, different employer.

Steven Adamowski is so “special” that the Malloy/Pryor Operation didn’t even bother to post the position or follow any type of competitive or open hiring process.

The words Steven Adamowski and Special seem to go hand in hand.

Although only certified teachers are allowed to participate in the State Teachers Retirement System, a loophole in the state statutes will allow Steven Adamowski, who IS NOT CERTIFIED to teach or certified be a school administrator; to use his new job in the Malloy administration to add years to his Teachers Retirement pension.

Alternatively, Adamowski can use his new state position to guarantee himself full retired state employee health benefits assuming he works for the state for five years.

As retired school teachers and administrators know, Connecticut’s teacher retirement health insurance program is limited and getting more and more expensive.

While retired state employees receive more substantial and less-expensive health insurance, retired teachers are facing higher and higher premiums.  Some retired teachers are coming face to face with the reality that they simply can’t afford even the more limited health insurance package that is available to them.

But thanks to Governor Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski will not only collect a pension from the Teachers Retirement System, but if he continues to play his cards right he’ll get to retire with the state’s retired state employee health plan that could be worth $20,000 or more a year…..for life.

But as noted above, Steven Adamowski is used to special treatment.

  • On the last day of the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2007 legislative session an amendment was added to a bill that allowed Steven Adamowski to serve as Hartford’s superintendent of schools despite the fact that he did not have the certification to be a superintendent in Connecticut.  He held that position for five years.  The only other person to benefit from that section of the Connecticut state statutes is none-other-than Paul Vallas (although they had to change the statute to try to fit his particular circumstances). 
  • Then, speaking of special treatment, in 2012, when Governor Malloy introduced his “Education Reform” legislation, Section 32 of Malloy’s bill sought to retroactively give Steven Adamowski Teacher Retirement pension credits for his time as Hartford’s superintendent.  Following widespread publicity about the end-run to boost Adamowski’s pension, the legislature removed the special language. 
  • Meanwhile, it was about the same time that Adamowski got his no-bid, $225,000 plus benefits contract to serve as “Special Master” of Windham.  His role was later expanded to serve as “Special Master” for both Windham and New London. 
  • The contract to serve as “Special Master,” included language that tried to allow him to tap into the Teacher Retirement System for his time as “Special Master,” but he was once again blocked from adding years due to his lack of teacher certification.

But now, thanks to the decision to make him a state employee, Adamowski is back in the driver’s seat, where is able to add years to his Teachers Retirement Pension or go for the more generous health benefits.

Whether you call him a Friend of Dan (FOD) or a Friend of Stefan (FOS) there is simply no question that Steven Adamowski is special!

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.

The battle to save Windham and stop Special Master Steven Adamowski…before it’s too late

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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 

What the Hell is going on: Pryor and State Board of Education make Adamowski a State Employee

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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”

 

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