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Governor Dannel Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor love charter schools, but now they have egg all over their faces after the revelations about the Jumoke/FUSE leadership. Michael Sharpe, the CEO of FUSE resigned after revelations of his criminal record and his false claims of having a doctorate. The fact that Governor Malloy chose Stefan Pryor as his state commissioner of education is the first tip-off to the favoritism that charters have enjoyed in the Malloy administration. Pryor, who is not an educator, was a co-founder of the charter chain Achievement First, which has enjoyed the state’s largesse. Why the love of charter schools? Could it be their connection to the wealthy hedge fund managers and equity investors in Connecticut who give campaign contributions?

 

Charter schools are allowed to have only 30% of their staff with state certification. That means that 7,000 children in the state are permitted by the state to attend “schools” where most of the “educators” have no certification. In some cases, the people running the school are not educators.

 

The Booker T. Washington school was supposed to be managed by FUSE, but severed the relationship. The school is headed by a pastor and his wife.

 

The state Board of Education voted Monday to hire a special investigator to look into the finances, governance, familial relationships, properties, and operations of the Family Urban School of Excellence (FUSE) — the charter school organization that oversaw Jumoke Academy and Hartford’s Milner Elementary School. The group also has a contract to manage Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School and had planned to manage New Haven’s Booker T. Washington Academy, which is scheduled to open in the fall.

 

The Booker T. Washington Academy’s board of directors met Sunday and voted to sever ties with the embattled management group, leaving the state Board of Education with more questions than answers Monday.

 

Board members wanted to know if the decision means the school will still open this fall or if the 225 students will have to find a spot in the public schools.

 

The decision to sever ties with the embattled charter school management group “shows strong leadership and good judgment,” Morgan Barth, division director of the Education Department’s Turnaround Department, said Monday. “Booker T. Washington understands the urgency of presenting a plan to have a school up and running in the fall.”

 

Barth said that plan will be scrutinized with a “great deal of rigor” and the state Board of Education will have another opportunity to vote on the plan presented during a special meeting this summer.

 

Charles Jaskiewicz III, a board member from Norwich, said that he would rather delay the opening of Booker T. Washington Academy, “so we have prosperity, instead of more angst as we move forward.”

 

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said they have discussed with the Booker T. Washington Academy a one-year delay, but Pastor Eldren Morrison requested an opportunity to present a new plan to the board without delay….

 

Maria Pereira, a former Bridgeport School Board member, said FUSE earned about $435,000 in management fees for its involvement with Bridgeport’s Dunbar School.

 

When she was a member of the Bridgeport school board, Pereira said she voted against allowing the charter school management company to come in to town because she had done her research on the group’s involvement with Hartford’s Milner School. She said their test scores went down after FUSE took over management of the school.

 

Pereira said the state Board of Education is responsible for allowing this charter management group to take over these schools and needs to be held accountable.

 

She said Sharpe took over Jumoke Academy from his mother in 2003 and FUSE was created as a management group in 2012.

 

“Are you telling me his mother didn’t know he had a federal conviction for embezzlement and that he served two-and-a-half years in a federal prison?” Pereira said.

 

The revelations about Sharpe prompted the state Board of Education Monday to move forward with background checks for all charter school and charter management employees.

 

Here are a few relevant comments by Linda from Connecticut, posted this morning, citing comments from the above-linked article:

 

Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education, the legislators, and, perhaps, the Governor should re-read the laws they passed regarding charter schools and the Commissioner’s Network. There is no way that the Booker T. Washington state charter can “go forward” (not that it ever should have been approved!)—the Reverend and his wife (?nepotism?) do not appear to have education degrees—what gives them the right to open a school? The legislation Stefan Pryor and Governor Malloy were so anxious to pass (with the spineless complicity of the state legislature) outlines in some detail the process for opening a charter school. After submitting the application, the Commissioner and State Board of Education are supposed to read and evaluate it—and its clauses about Lead Partnerships, terminations, legal proceedings, etc. It is utterly ridiculous for Turnaround Specialist (and former Achievement First principal) Morgan Barth to call severing the partnership with FUSE an example of “strong leadership”—too bad it’s not legal. I would recommend that the State Board of Education, the Commissioner, the Governor, and the legislators take a long look at what they are doing to children (no background checks? only 30% certified teachers? no curriculum, as at Milner?). To view the Booker T. Washington charter school application and its lengthy sections explaining the “Jumoke philosophy” is to realize, first of all, that this is a fantasy world in which facts, such as the dire situation of children at Milner must be suppressed, and second, that the Rev. Morrison swallowed the Sharpe sales pitch as easily as Pryor and the SBE did.

 

And if we’re looking at family relationships in hiring, don’t forget an examination of the Rev. Moales in Bridgeport and his family’s daycares and pre-schools.

 

Here is another:

 

One more, same article:

 

posted by: Parent and educator | July 1, 2014 11:29am

 

State Rep. and Ed. Commission member Andy Fleischmann and other officials show themselves to be woefully misinformed when they say that Sharpe has been “tremendously successful”—based on what? how many students were at Jumoke then? Is it possible to find this out? also, I think the curriculum, student numbers (at the beginning of the year and again at the end), test scores, all need to be examined for each year of Jumoke’s existence. When they were discussing the Achievement First Hartford high school in 2012, and how it would automatically admit Jumoke 8th graders, that year there were 42 graduating 8th graders! and that was after years of Adamowski’s bolstering charters and increasing funding by means of his “money follows the child”.
Also, how can SBE member Estela Lopez say she didn’t know about the problems at Milner, when last year’s CMTs were published and were shown to be falling? Why is she saying that, having rubber-stamped Pryor’s orders, she didn’t know what she had signed and voted for? She probably pays more attention to her cell phone plan than to legislation affecting hundreds, even thousands (7000 attend charter schools in CT) of children in CT.

 

Shouldn’t the citizens of Connecticut file an ethics complaint against the SBE? for dereliction of duty and gross malfeasance? This board is all about accountability and teacher evals, student rigor, yada yada, and look at what a bunch of toadies they are! The state legislature is not much better, by the way; witness Fleischmann’s “unknowingness” and embrace of policies he would never inflict on the affluent schools of West Hartford.

 

And another:

 

Please see this article as well and I will cut and paste two very important comments posted by an informed parent.

 

posted by: Parent and educator | June 30, 2014 6:42pm

 

The State Board of Education and the Commissioner have demonstrated a very serious dereliction of duty with regard to FUSE, and, by extension, all charter schools. Now we find out that the SBE never verified the credentials of Michael Sharpe? Never cared that his daughter Michelle, his brother or relation Joseph Dickerson, his niece (as named in a previous article) have all been employed by the charters? Not to mention the daughter of Andrea Comer, who, until Thursday last, was COO of FUSE! Background checks for those who work with children are somehow optional? SBE members today demonstrated a callous disregard for the law in claiming that they did not realize the true situation with FUSE (there were warning flags about Jumoke/Milner, by the way—and many members of the public have requested information about that partnership)—yet the SBE renewed their contract and gave them more schools! Jumoke is a pipeline for the new Achievement First high school that opened shortly after Stefan Pryor resigned from that charter school management organization he helped to found in order to be the State Commissioner of Education! In addition (and any journalist can find more egregious info about this, if they are willing to look and listen), Stefan Pryor hand-picked Jumoke/Fuse to present a workshop on the Commissioner’s Network Turnaround process—with the implication that having the newly incorporated FUSE as “lead partner” would fast-track an application to the Commissioner’s Network—which was obviously the case with Dunbar and now Booker T. Washington—a plan that simply cannot go forward, as per CT law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy Lecker shows in this important article how corporate reformers impose “disruptive innovation” on struggling schools and communities. They close schools, take over schools, and fire staff instead of making needed improvements.

The reformers are following the advice of a writer who argues that disruptive innovation works in the business world. But, she says, it doesn’t work in the business world or in education. The goals of education are not the same as the goals of business.

“Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from charter school promoters. The result is his embrace of “disruptive innovation” in education.

“Disruption is bad for schools and for children — especially for vulnerable children, who experience daily turbulence in their lives outside school. Teacher and administrator turnover hurts student achievement, as does student mobility. The turnaround strategy has proven unsuccessful.

“Recent shocking developments involving Jumoke/FUSE charter school illustrate the harm caused by Malloy’s “disruptive innovation.”

“Hartford’s Milner elementary school was the first target of charter chain founder and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s commissioner’s network. The commissioner’s network to “turnaround” struggling schools was a key feature of Malloy’s 2012 education reform legislation.

“Milner suffered from a chronic shortage in staff serving its large population of English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Its building required major repairs. The school also already underwent an unsuccessful redesign in 2008. Rather than provide Milner with necessary additional resources, Pryor announced a takeover of the school by Jumoke — a charter school in Hartford with no ELL students and few students with disabilities.

“Only after the takeover did Milner receive additional funding, including an annual $345,000 management fee to Jumoke. Curiously, after the takeover, roughly 20 percent of the students disappeared from the school.

“Michael Sharpe promised that his “Jumoke model” would help Milner. However, after two years under Jumoke management, Milner’s scores have dropped precipitously and are now “rock bottom.” Hartford accuses Jumoke of nepotism, and of hiring an ex-convict. Sharpe admitted that there was no plan for Milner — they were “winging it.”

“As part of the commissioner’s network, Milner/Jumoke was supposed to be subject to heightened accountability by Pryor. Yet, despite this ongoing failure, since 2012, Pryor and the State Board of Education awarded Jumoke another commissioner’s network school, Bridgeport’s Dunbar elementary, and another charter school in New Haven.

“This week, it was revealed that Sharpe falsified his academic credentials. Even worse, he spent several years in federal prison for embezzling public funds and conspiracy to commit fraud, and has two forgery convictions….It is unconscionable that neither Pryor nor Malloy bothered to discover Sharpe’s lies or his felony convictions.

“The damage done to Milner’s children cannot be undone. They have lost years of learning. They are forced to build new relationships with staff that has been replaced twice in six years. Instead of necessary resources, the state has given these families only empty promises.

“Unlike business disruptors, Malloy’s failed education ventures will not disappear. His callous “disruptive” education policies cause lasting damage to Connecticut’s children and their communities.”

The FUSE (Family Urban Schools of Excellence) charter organization was shaken by two high-level resignations, following the departure of its CEO Michael Sharpe. Sharpe quit after the press revealed that he had served time in prison and had used the title “Dr.” Though he had never earned a doctorate.

The Hartford Courant asked for information about FUSE’s finances, but got no response. FUSE runs three Jumoke charter schools and in April received permission to open a new charter in New Haven. It has also been authorized to open one or more charters in Louisiana. The Jumoke charter schools have received $53 million in public funds since 1998.

The Courant said:

“Charter schools are classified as public agencies under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Public agencies are obligated by law to supply information and documents upon request in the same way that town and city school systems must do.

“Information that FUSE has declined to provide to The Courant this week includes:

•Whether Sharpe will receive a pension or other retirement benefits after leaving the top job that he said paid him $180,000 a year.

•A list of its employees and their salaries, which a public relations representative for the group said was “private information.”

•Any resume that Sharpe might have submitted, which could show what FUSE’s board of directors knew about his background and academic credentials when he was hired as CEO.

•Terms of a lease that Sharpe said he has for an apartment he’s been living in for “about $1,000″ a month at 852 Asylum Ave. in Hartford, a building owned by the Jumoke Academy charter schools organization in Hartford. Those schools are managed by FUSE.”

FUSE declined to provide any of this information. “FUSE has been saying this week that it is a private organization, distinct from the actual Jumoke charter schools.”

Jonathan Pelto supported Dannell Malloy in the last election,but is now running against him as a third-party candidate.

Pelto was not invited to address either the AFT or the AFL-CIO, but finally got his chance to speak to the Working Families Party.

Will WFP in Connecticut follow the example of its counterpart in New York, which toyed with a progressive candidate but then endorsed Governor Cuomo (aka Governor 1%)? Or will WFP-CT take its stand with a candidate who mirrors its values?

Michael Sharpe resigned as CEO of The Jumoke Academy, which runs charter schools in Connecticut and plans to expand to Baton Rouge, after revelations that he had been convicted of felonies many years ago and that he did not have a doctorate degree, as he had claimed.

One of the schools managed by Jumoke, the Milner elementary school, will be returned to the Hartford public schools.

“On Saturday, the website for Family Urban Schools of Excellence, the management organization created in 2012 to oversee Jumoke Academy and its expansion, still described Sharpe as “Dr. Michael Sharpe” and stated he was a graduate of NYU. Official documents, including the memorandum of understanding with Hartford for Milner School, have also referred to him as “Dr. Sharpe,” and in 2006, he told the state legislature’s appropriations committee, “my name is Dr. Michael Sharpe,” according to a transcript of his testimony.

“Controversy over the academic credential came days after The Courant detailed a behind-the-scenes feud between the city school system and Jumoke over its two-year management of Milner, a struggling school that has received $2.64 million in extra funding from the state’s Commissioner’s Network since 2012. The state intervention program gives millions of dollars to schools with three- to five-year “turnaround” plans to raise achievement — for Milner and Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School, that strategy has featured a partnership with the charter operator to essentially run the schools.

“Among the Hartford district’s complaints were concerns over hiring practices. School officials had accused FUSE of nepotism and offering Milner jobs to people with criminal backgrounds, but that was before they learned that Sharpe was a convicted felon.

“Sharpe told The Courant that he has atoned for his mistakes and that he never kept his past a secret.”

Yesterday, it was revealed by the media that the CEO of one of Connecticut’s charter chains, Michael Sharpe, has a criminal background. Today the story emerged that he does not have a doctorate, although the chain’s website refers to him as “Dr. Sharpe.” Perhaps of greater significance is that his charter school in Hartford did not enroll a single bilingual student in six years. Sharpe says he never claimed to have a doctorate but somehow he was often described as “Dr. Sharpe.”

Says the Hartford Courant:

“HARTFORD — In a New Year’s message last December, the CEO of the Jumoke Academy charter school shared his enthusiastic vision for 2014, signing the letter, “Yours Truly, Dr. Michael Sharpe.”

“Some version of that prestigious academic credential has been attached to Sharpe for the last decade in school materials and biographies, which variously credit him as having a doctorate in education or a Ph.D.

“But on Friday, after the Courant questioned his academic background, Sharpe acknowledged that he never earned a doctoral degree and has erroneously been described as a “doctor.”

“Sharpe, 62, said he began coursework at New York University, but “I did not complete the work. People started calling me doctor while I was in school, and I have always told people, ‘Don’t do it,’ but it catches on and people just keep doing it.”

The leader of a charter chain in Connecticut has a criminal record, but no one ever asked him about his background, he says.

The Hartford Courant reported:

“Criminal convictions and past imprisonment of Michael M. Sharpe, the CEO of a charter school organization that receives millions in taxpayer funds, are worrying Hartford and state officials – who said Wednesday they hadn’t known of his record and now want answers.”

It added:

“The questions arise as Sharpe’s organization – Family Urban Schools of Excellence, or FUSE – faces heavy criticism from the Hartford school system over its two-year management of Milner Elementary School. There are accusations of nepotism and concerns over Milner jobs having been offered to people with criminal backgrounds. The Courant reported on the complaints Tuesday.

“Tuesday night – after hearing about part of Sharpe’s criminal record from a person Wareing described as a “Good Samaritan” – the school board put off a vote on a proposal that would strip many of FUSE’s responsibilities at Milner, but still give the charter group $215,000 in state funds to provide a few services in the upcoming 2014-15 school year.

“The board expects to make a decision soon on whether to terminate the relationship, but first, Wareing said, the questions about Sharpe need to be addressed.

“Sharpe, 62, has been convicted twice on criminal charges. He pleaded guilty in Connecticut Superior Court to two counts of third-degree forgery in 1985 and agreed to pay two fines of $1,000 each. Then after moving to California, he pleaded guilty in 1989 to federal charges of embezzling more than $100,000 and conspiring to defraud the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, or BART, where he had served as the public transportation agency’s real estate manager.”

Sharpe said his criminal history was never a secret.

The charter chain has been a significant presence in Connecticut:

“The influence of Sharpe’s organization extends far beyond its assistance in the management of Milner School in Hartford. It also operates three Jumoke Academy charter schools in Hartford; manages Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport; and received state approval in April to operate the new Booker T. Washington Academy charter school that is scheduled to open soon in New Haven.

“In addition, FUSE has received approval to run at least one charter school in Louisiana.”

Spokespersons for the corporate reform movement hope to launch legal attacks on tenure and seniority in Connecticut, following the example of the Vergara case in California.

Even though the laws in the two states are quite different, the corporate reformers object to any job security at all for teachers, and they assume that low scores anywhere must be caused by teachers who should be fired.

Here is one of Connecticut’s leading corporate reform voices: “”The Vergara case exposed the fact that children have unequal access to quality teachers in California. This problem exists in Connecticut as well,” said Jennifer Alexander, chief executive officer of ConnCAN, an organization that supports school reform.”

The head of the corporate reform Connecticut Parents Union said she wants a judge to rule that teachers in low-performing schools should have neither tenure or seniority.

But Connecticut has a much longer waiting period for tenure than California. In the latter state, teachers may win tenure in 18 months, but in Conne it cut, tenure is awarded after four years of teaching. In California, dismissing a teacher is a long and costly process, but in Connecticut, according to Cindy Mirochine, president of the Danbury Teachers Union, the time allotted to the termination process is limited: “”We reduced the time for due process,” Mirochine said, adding that the maximum time from notice of termination until termination was reduced from 125 days to 85 days.

Given the differences between the two states, it becomes clear that the goal of a lawsuit in Connecticut would be to remove any and all job protections for teachers so that they could be fired promptly, for any reason. There is no reason to believe that such changes would increase the number of “great teachers” or have any beneficial impact on students with low test scores.

Bridgeport officials are worried. The state board of education approved the expansion of two charters and the addition of a new one. Local officials want to know where the money will come from and how the budget for the other 90% of the city’s children will be affected.

Blogger and former Democratic legislator Jonathan Pelto announced his plans to run as a third party candidate against Governor Dannell Malloy, largely on education issues. See here and here.

His running mate is Hartford teacher Ebony Murphy.

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