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.
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.