Archives for category: Connecticut

Ten years ago, a deranged young man blasted his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He killed 20 first-grade children and six staff members, including the principal, who tried to stop him at the school’s door.

The nation was stunned. President Obama wept. There was a widespread sense that this heinous act would lead to decisive action by Congress. It didn’t. The gun violence against children continues.

Why? The Republican Party has sworn allegiance to an extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment in which every person has the unfettered right to own and carry guns. and the Supreme Court, now securely in the hands of hard-right conservatives after Trump added three justices, is overturning long-standing limits on gun ownership. There are more guns than people in the U.S., and so far as conservatives are concerned, there is no need to restrict their availability and use (except in the halls of Congress, the Supreme Court, and other special places.)

Among the weapons used at Sandy Hook were a Bushmaster XM15-E2S and a Glock 20SF handgun. The killer first murdered his mother, who bought the guns and took him to firing ranges. When fist responders arrived, he killed himself.

Not long after the massacre of babies at Sandy Hook, the professional liars entered the scene. They said that there was no massacre. Everything we saw on television was staged, they said. The “parents” who were mourning were actually “crisis actors.” Someone sent me a link to a video purporting to show that Sandy Hook never happened; it was a hoax created to promote gun control legislation.

Alex Jones leapt on the story and repeatedly broadcast it to his many followers. Some of them harassed the families who had lost a child or a mother or a sister, even sending them death threats.

Alex Jones has this year been convicted of defamation and ordered to pay fines exceeding $1 billion. He moved his assets and declared bankruptcy.

There have been so many mass murders in the past decade that it’s impossible to remember them all. We remember the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, both because of the numbers and the heroic response of the survivors, who lobbied fiercely for gun control. Uvalde got our attention because of the number of children killed: 19, along with two teachers. And it got our attention because of the sheer incompetence of the law enforcement officers, who arrived on the scene by the hundreds and failed to enter the classrooms where the killer was for over an hour.

Of one thing we can be sure, there will be more mass killings of students. Uvalde will not be last. Schools now practice active shooter drills. Some teachers are armed. School security has been enhanced. Door locks are common.

But when the next killer pulls a gun out of his backpack or blasts through the entry with an assault weapon, children and staff will die. We will mourn them and their teachers as we have before. And then there will be another. And another.

Nothing will change until we enact strong gun control laws that limit access to guns. That won’t happen unless the voters elect people sworn to protect the lives of their children.

Back in 2014, a prominent charter school leader in Connecticut resigned after it was revealed that he had been convicted of felonies many years earlier, and that he did not have a doctorate, although he claimed he did. Michael Sharpe resigned as CEO of Jumoke Academy, which ran charter schools in Connecticut and planned to expand to Louisiana.

Sharpe was part of a management organization called Family Urban Schools of Excellence or FUSE, created in 2012. The state had given millions of dollars to Jumoke to take over low-performing schools and turn them around.

The controversy over Sharpe was embarrassing to Democratic Governor Dannell Malloy, who was a cheerleader for charter schools. Malloy chose Stefan Pryor to be the State Commissioner of Education. Pryor had no experience in the classroom but was a co-founder of the no-excuses charter chain Achievement First. Charter schools in the state were allowed to have only 30% of their staff with state certification. The charter industry was strong in Connecticut due to the financial power of hedge funders and the Sackler Family (of opioid fame), which launched Conn-CAN, a charter advocacy group, which became the national 50CAN.

But the biggest scandal of all came to light in the past week, when the same Michael Sharpe was convicted of breaking into the homes of four women in 1984, kidnapping them, threatening the women with a firearm, sexually assaulting them, then stealing money and valuables.

Sharpe was convicted of kidnapping and faces a sentence of 25-100 years in prison. The statute of limitations had expired on the sexual assault charges. Sharpe’s DNA was found at the four scenes. The case was solved by the state’s cold case unit.

Back in the days of his charter fame, the Center for Education Reform identified him as a national leader.

Dr. Sharpe is president of the Connecticut Charter School Association and founding member of the Legacy Project and Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE). He also sits on the boards of the National Charter School Leadership Council, St. Agnes Home, Inc., the CT Chapter of Lupus Foundation of America and Connecticut Landmarks.

Dr. Sharpe began work at Jumoke Academy in 1998 and was appointed its CEO in 2003. Under his leadership, Jumoke Academy’s middle and elementary schools were cited for three consecutive years as one of the top ten performing urban schools in the State of Connecticut.

Jumoke Academy is committed to developing the whole child, and as such, offers programs that ensure our children become competent in the arts, humanities, civic and social responsibilities, and that they understand the value and importance of good character.

In 2015, after Sharpe had resigned, civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker wrote about the strange trajectory of Jumoke Academy, FUSE, and Michael Sharpe.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Education quietly distributed a scathing investigative report on the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain, conducted by a law firm the department retained. The report reads like a manual on how to break every rule of running a non-profit organization.

The investigators found that although FUSE and Jumoke were supposed to be two separate, tax-exempt organizations, both were run by Michael Sharpe alone. FUSE, formed in 2012, never held board of directors’ meetings until after the public revelations in the spring of 2014 of Michael Sharpe’s felony record for embezzlement and falsification of his academic credentials. FUSE entered into contracts with the state to run two public schools without approval by its board. In fact, it is unclear that FUSE even had a board of directors then. Jumoke, too, played fast and loose with board meetings. Jumoke’s board gave Sharpe “unfettered control” over every aspect of the organization. Even after he left Jumoke for FUSE, Sharpe still ran Jumoke, leaving day-to-day operations to his nephew, an intern there.

Hiring and background checks were in Sharpe’s sole discretion. He placed ex-convicts in the two public schools run by Jumoke, Hartford’s Milner and Bridgeport’s Dunbar. Dunbar’s principal, brought in by Sharpe, was recently arraigned on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the school.

Nepotism was “rampant.” Sharpe’s mother founded Jumoke. Sharpe moved from paraprofessional to CEO in 2003, with no additional training. His unqualified daughter and nephew were hired, as well as his sister.

The investigation found extreme comingling of funds and of financial and accounting activities, noting that it “would be difficult to construct a less appropriate financial arrangement between two supposedly separate organizations.”

Jumoke/FUSE used state money to engage in aggressive real estate acquisition, some not even for educational purposes, and some inexplicably purchased above its appraised value. Properties were collateral and/or were mortgaged for one another. Loan rates were excessive. To date, loans are guaranteed by FUSE, which is not operational.

Jumoke leased Sharpe part of a building who, violating the lease, sublet it and collected rent. Sharpe hired Jumoke’s facilities director’s husband to perform costly renovations on the parts of the building, his bedroom and bathroom, paid by Jumoke.

These are just some of the misdeeds that occurred without oversight by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. The board approved contracts to run two public schools without verifying that FUSE had no board of directors. It approved millions to be paid to FUSE/Jumoke to buy non-educational buildings, charge excessive consulting fees to public schools and engage in possibly fraudulent activities. Worse still, the board allowed Jumoke/FUSE to run Milner schoolinto the ground, jeopardizing the education of Milner’s vulnerable students.

“Dr. Sharpe’s” Linked-In profile has not been updated. It’s very impressive.

Alex Jones and his companies Infowars and Free Speech Systems were ordered by a jury in Connecticut to pay nearly $1 billion to some of the parents of victims murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as an FBI agent.

Jones falsely claimed that the massacre of children, teachers, and the principal at the school was faked and that the victims were “crisis actors.” He said repeatedly that the purpose of the hoax was to create political pressure for gun control.

Parents and relatives of those who were murdered were harassed and received death threats.

The money will not replace those they lost. The,parents will never hold their babies again. But Jones’ cruel campaign to deny that the massacre ever happened deserved punishment.

This is the second of three trials. Jones has no defense. He maligned the families to make money. Hopefully he will be bankrupted for his sins.

There will never be justice for the families who lost loved ones at the Sandy Hook (Ct) massacre.

But Alex Jones will pay for his lies, his claims that the massacre of children and educators was a hoax staged by “crisis actors” to build support for gun control.

A jury in Texas awarded one set of parents $45 in punitive damages in addition to $4 million in compensatory damages for the pain and anguished he inflicted on the survivors.

This is the first trial. There are more to come.

Others will have to explain why Jones shamelessly exploited the suffering of Sandy Hook families. If it was greed, then it is just that he lose his ill-gotten gains.

What a vile, evil man.

Have you lost faith in our elected officials? Let me introduce you to my personal hero. Rosa DeLauro. I have met with her several times, and she was always attentive and thoughtful. I love her values, and I love her too. It’s a very small tribute to this great woman, but I take this opportunity to add her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up forcefully to the bullying of the charter lobby.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is one of the most powerful members of Congress. She is a Democrat from Connecticut. She is an outstanding liberal who fights for children and working people.

Please read her bio.

Rosa DeLauro is the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven, to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. Rosa serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where she oversees our nation’s investments in education, health, and employment.

At the core of Rosa’s work is her fight for America’s working families. Rosa believes that we must raise the nation’s minimum wage, give all employees access to paid sick days, allow employees to take paid family and medical leave, and ensure equal pay for equal work. Every day, Rosa fights for legislation that would give all working families an opportunity to succeed.

Rosa believes that our first priority must be to strengthen the economy and create good middle class jobs. She supports tax cuts for working and middle class families, fought to expand the Child Tax Credit to provide tax relief to millions of families, and introduced the Young Child Tax Credit to give families with young children an economic lift.

Rosa has also fought to stop trade agreements that lower wages and ships jobs overseas, while also protecting the rights of employees and unions. She believes that we need to grow our economy by making smart innovative investments in our infrastructure, which is why she introduced legislation to create a National Infrastructure bank.

Rosa is a leader in fighting to improve and expand federal support for child nutrition and for modernizing our food safety system. She believes that the U.S. should have one agency assigned the responsibility for food safety, rather than the 15 different agencies that lay claim to different parts of our food system. Rosa fights against special interests, like tobacco and e-cigarettes, which seek to skirt our public health and safety rules.

As the Chair dealing with appropriations for Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, Rosa is determined to increase support for education and make college more affordable for more American students and their families. She is also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act so that all Americans have access to affordable care. Rosa strongly believes in the power of biomedical research and she is working to increase funding so that we can make lifesaving breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Rosa believes that we have a moral obligation to our nation’s veterans and their families, and her concern for these heroes extends to both their physical and mental well-being. Rosa supports a transformation in how the Department of Veterans Affairs is funded, including advanced appropriations for health services, to ensure its fiscal soundness; and she successfully championed legislation to guarantee that troops deploying to combat theaters get the mental health screening they need both before and after deployment, as well as championed legislation that now provides assistance to today’s Post-9/11 veterans choosing to pursue on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.

Rosa belongs to 62 House caucus groups and is the co-chair of the Baby Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Food Safety Caucus.

Soon after earning degrees from Marymount College and Columbia University, Rosa followed her parents’ footsteps into public service, serving as the first Executive Director of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office; Executive Director of Countdown ’87, the national campaign that successfully stopped U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras; and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd. In 1990, Rosa was elected to the House of Representatives, and she has served as the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District ever since.

Rosa is married to Stanley Greenberg. Their children—Anna, Kathryn, and Jonathan Greenberg—all are grown and pursuing careers. Rosa and Stan have six grandchildren, Rigby, Teo, Sadie, Jasper, Paola and Gus.

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Biography

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Official Photo

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and I in 2018: My hero.

After the massacre of children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2014, there seemed to be an unstoppable public demand for federal gun control legislation. After the massacre of high school students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Davis High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the demand for gun control seemed unstoppable, led by students from the school.

Nothing happened. Now American students and teachers learn to protect themselves in “active shooter” drills. The opponents of gun control count on potential victims to protect themselves, instead of enacting restrictions on gun owners to protect children.

The same politicians who fight for the rights of gun owners are busily banning books, which they consider dangerous. Book banning is cancel culture at its worst.

Nine years ago, a deranged gunman blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He murdered 20 children and six educators, including the principal, Dawn Hochsprung. The children were all 6- and 7-year-olds. Teachers shielded their children as best they could, and some died while protecting the children.

Many thought this slaughter of babies and educators would compel Congress to enact meaningful gun control. It didn’t. It even inspired a ruthless radio host to claim that the massacre never happened. Many grieving parents received death threats, due to the radio host’s lies. A court has held him liable for his cruel campaign. Meanwhile the murders continue, and Congress does nothing.

I received this message from Sandy Hook Promise, which continues to advocate for gun control:

Nine years ago today, our children and loved ones were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.

There are no words to describe how deeply we miss them, or how agonizing it is to mark another year since the last hug, smile or laugh we shared with them.

It’d bring such comfort to know you’re standing with us today. Will you sign our remembrance card to honor the precious lives taken from us? http://lil.ms/cydj/8zthf9

-Sandy Hook Promise

Since December 14 also is the date on which my beloved two-year-old died of leukemia many, many years ago, I grieve with and for with the parents of Sandy Hook, and with all families who have lost a child. You never forget.

Sandy Hook parents won a defamation lawsuit against rightwing media figure Alex Jones. Their children were murdered on December 14, 2012, in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A total of 20 children between the ages of six and seven were killed, along with six staff members, including the principal.

For years, Alex Jones has asserted that the massacre was staged and that the film footage showed child actors. His repeated slanders were deeply hurtful to the families who lost children and adult relations.

The parents of two first-graders slain in the Sandy Hook massacre have won a defamation lawsuit in Texas against conspiracy extremist and Infowars host Alex Jones.

Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis, and Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah Pozner, will have their cases heard by a jury to determine damages…

The parents, who each sued Jones for more than $1 million for claiming, among other things, that the 2012 slaying of 26 first-graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School was “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax” and “completely fake with actors,” had been battling with Jones in Travis County District Court for pretrial documents he had been ordered to turn over to them.

Ann P. Cronin is a former Connecticut Distinguished English Teacher of the Year, a school district administrator, and creator of award-winning programs for the teaching of English in middle schools and high schools. At her blog, she asks about Miguel Cardona’s vision for the future.

She writes:

When I ask Connecticut teachers about Miguel Cardona, those who know him or have worked with him say that he is really nice guy who knows what the challenges in our classrooms are, knows how to help teachers to improve their teaching, and respects public schools. All good.

The majority of Connecticut teachers who don’t know him personally say that he has been largely quiet as Commissioner and are critical that he seems more interested in keeping schools open than in caring about public health, including the welfare of teachers, students and students’ families during the pandemic. 

But what is his vision for teaching and learning that he will bring to the U.S. Department of Education? When appointed Commissioner of Education in Connecticut 19 months ago, he stated that his goals would be to:

  1. Make a positive impact on graduation rates.
  2. Close the achievement gap.
  3. Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.

It is reasonable to assume that the goals he had for Connecticut 19 months ago will be goals that he will now bring to the country. Those goals, however, are “old hat” and don’t have a record of being successfully accomplished.

The goals themselves are worthy ones, but they need a new interpretation which would give rise to a dramatically new vision and radical new actions. The questions are: What would that new vision and new actions look like? And is Dr. Cardona open to that vision and those actions?

Cronin points out that it easy to “raise the graduation rate,” as many districts now do, by offering “credit retrieval” or “credit recovery” courses, a quick computer course that involves minimal learning but provides credits. The goal ought to be, she says, not raising the graduation rate but something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

Charter schools have mastered the trick of raising graduation rates by pushing out students who are unlikely to graduate on time.

She asks for something more: a genuine vision that involves improving the quality of education, not improving the data.

How refreshing!

Ann Cronin, retired teacher in Connecticut, posted a letter on her blog written by another Connecticut teacher and addressed to Secretary of Education-Designate Miguel Cardona:

Jeannette C. Faber writes to tell Dr. Cardona that it is time to end standardized testing, now!

Dear Commissioner Cardona:

Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education. 

Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this. 

However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.

  • If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more. 
  • If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
  • If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story. 

Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning. 

No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.

We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).

We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.  

We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.

We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!

Now is the time to end standardized testing

#RefuseTheTest 

#DoNotTakeTestingToDC. 

A faithful teacher,

Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD