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Pryor Won’t Stay For Second Term

by Christine Stuart and Hugh McQuaid | Aug 18, 2014 12:23pm
(14) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Election 2014

Christine Stuart file photo

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor

If Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wins re-election, controversial Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will not be part of the package, the administration announced Monday.

According to a press release, Pryor does not plan to serve for a second term and is “actively seeking new professional opportunities.”

“Commissioner Pryor has worked hard and well on behalf of Connecticut students,” Malloy said in a statement. “In the three years he’s led the department, we’ve taken tremendous steps forward to improve education, with a particular focus on the districts that have long needed the most help. We needed someone who could act as a change agent, and Stefan fulfilled that role admirably.”

Malloy appointed Pryor after taking office in 2011. His background as the co-founder of the Amistad Academy, a New Haven public charter school, made him a controversial choice with the state teacher unions.

Since then, Pryor has become a lightning rod for critics of Malloy’s education reform package, which some regard as hostile to public school teachers.

As recently, as June, a coalition of state unions adopted a resolution that would require an Education Commissioner to have the same professional experience of a school superintendent. The symbolic requirement was a direct shot at Pryor, who does not have a doctorate in education or classroom teaching experience. The AFL-CIO and AFT Connecticut ultimately endorsed Malloy.

Connecticut Education Association President Shelia Cohen said that teachers didn’t disagree with the commissioner on the goal of maintaining and improving public education for all students in Connecticut, but “we did disagree at times on how to reach that goal.”

Cohen used the announcement to call upon the governor to select a successor with “extensive public education boots-on-the-ground experience.”

Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut, made a similar statement.

“While we have had policy disagreements over the past three years, we have never questioned his personal commitment to fulfilling the department’s mission,” Peters said. 

Sen. John McKinney, who lost the Republican primary to Tom Foley last week, called for Pryor’s resignation back in February after hearing from teacher unions about the messy rollout of the new teacher evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards. The Malloy administration has since delayed the rollout of both the teacher evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards, but many rank-and-file teachers remain skeptical of how the education reforms will be implemented.

Pryor has also been the frequent target of Jonathan Pelto, a former Democratic lawmaker and liberal blogger who is attempting to petition his way onto the ballot as a candidate for governor.

In the press release, Pryor thanked Malloy and said he believed it was important to “communicate [his] decision proactively” to Malloy and the public.

“Despite the admittedly long hours and the tremendous challenges, I have enjoyed this job thoroughly. We have accomplished a lot over nearly three years. The work has not always been easy but, start to finish and top to bottom, it has been extraordinarily worthwhile. I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made together,” he said.

But Pryor’s departure at the end of Malloy’s first-term is not a surprise to those who follow state politics.

It’s well-known that Malloy infuriated teachers back in 2012 during his state-of-the-state address when he said, “Basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”

That statement was followed by months of debate about how to write education reform legislation that held teachers accountable for their performance in the classroom. Teachers even rallied outside the state Capitol in protest to parts of the bill. While the final piece of legislation was accepted by the state’s two teacher unions, it left the perception that Malloy was anti-teacher.

Pryor also was perceived as being against public schools and public school teachers partly because he founded one of the state’s 18 charter schools with connections to well-funded organizations that have ties to corporate America.

Pelto, a critic of the corporate education reform movement, said Pryor’s announcement indicates that Malloy is “finally recognizing that his anti-teacher, pro-charter school, pro-Common Core agenda is bad news for Connecticut public schools or, at the very least, a political disaster for him has he aspires to a second term in office.”

As far as the governor’s support for public schools, Pelto said Malloy’s “true intentions remain unknown, but Pryor’s departure is a small step in the right direction.”

But not everyone has been a critic. Pryor also had his fans.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a statewide, non-partisan organization that works to close the achievement gap, applauded Pryor’s tenure and his expansion of charter schools.

“Stefan Pryor has been an outstanding Commissioner of Education and a real force for change,” CCER Board Chair Steve Simmons said. “He has shepherded improvements in K-12 education that will have a meaningful and long-lasting, positive impact on our public schools.”

The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now’s CEO Jennifer Alexander also praised Pryor’s leadership.

Alexander said that since Commissioner Pryor took office, he has worked to improve our lowest-performing schools and districts, collaborated with all stakeholders to hold educators accountable for their job performance, supported educators who deliver for children, increased the number of great public school options for parents and their children, and raised standards for all of Connecticut’s students.

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(14) Comments

posted by: GBear423 | August 18, 2014  1:03pm

GBear423

Now here is the part where Dannel will choose someone from the Teacher’s Union to take the new vacancy announced during the general election campaign…  pandering? noooo suh!

Admittedly, another political hack semi-ed non-teacher background candidate would be ill advised, but would be impressed with his principle if he actually did.

posted by: Linda12 | August 18, 2014  1:14pm

The FBI will still pursue him no matter where he goes. Don’t shred any emails Stefan.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | August 18, 2014  1:42pm

DrHunterSThompson

Zippedy do-dah zippedy day.

HST

posted by: Commuter | August 18, 2014  11:19pm

“While we have had policy disagreements over the past three years, we have never questioned his personal commitment to fulfilling the department’s mission,” Peters said.

This is the reality of the education policy debate over the last three years. Neither the AFT nor CEA disagreed with Pryor’s goals nor questioned his motives. They disagreed at times with his approach.

The people continuing to fan the dying embers of disaffection have their own reasons for doing so. But the reality is that Malloy broadened the discussion and included voices that are usually dismissed and ignored.

That is exactly what you want in a democracy. That is what you want in a democratic (small “d”) administration.

There are people who like to talk about making sure all voices are heard when it means making sure their voice is heard - no matter how fringe their opinion is. They’re not so strong about it when it’s the voices of people who disagree with them.

People of principle can disagree strongly over specifics and remain allies. That’s why, at the end of the day, the unions - and most teachers - are sticking with Malloy.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | August 19, 2014  8:13am

Commuter has obviously never attended an editorial board meeting with Governor Malloy, in which the Governor insists that non-facts are facts, and when studies are provided to him after the meeting proving that he is wrong… *crickets*.  Malloy’s wish to hear other opinions seems to have developed commensurately with the approach of the impending election and his dicey position in the polls.

posted by: LongJohn47 | August 19, 2014  10:24am

I’m glad Pryor is going.  this is politics at its core—after a bad decision was made and the people most concerned were unhappy, a course correction is put in place.

thanks, Gov, for listening and responding.  it ain’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.

posted by: Commuter | August 20, 2014  8:15am

It’s not that Malloy isn’t listening, Sarah. He’s just not listening to you.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | August 20, 2014  8:28am

So in other words, Commuter, you think it’s fine for Malloy to make educational policy based on rhetoric rather than research as to what is effective for educating children? Okay. Got it. See where you are coming from.

posted by: Linda12 | August 20, 2014  8:28am

Or any of us except for sycophants.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | August 20, 2014  8:35am

Also Commuter - aren’t you brave to personally attack me from behind a computer screen?  At least I have the courage to voice my opinions and live with the consequences. You’re just another one of the many on this site without the courage to do the same.

posted by: Commuter | August 20, 2014  9:31am

Sarah - It’s difficult to ignore your consistently snarky tone, and your opinions are predictable. However, to the extent that I may have attacked you personally, I do apologize.

I don’t think I did that in this thread however. As I’ve pointed out in another exchange, you seem to be interpreting a lack of regard for your opinion as a character flaw. It’s not.

You make it clear again and again that you have made up your mind about Malloy, and your opinions consistently reflect that - particularly on this subject.

But, prove me wrong - write a truly balanced column on the subject. It deserves better than it has been getting from people like John Pelto.

posted by: Joebigjoe | August 20, 2014  10:19am

Sarah, thats why I respect you tremendously even though there are times we really disagree.

As you said “you voice your opinion and live with the consequences”.

I’ll add that you voice it and then respond within the comment section. It’s that battle of ideas that makes this country great without political correctness or being labeled a racist, anti-woman, hate monger etc.

Keep it up and to harken back to another story because this comes from my respect for you, I still wish you would buy a gun and lock it away very securely because you never know.

posted by: GBear423 | August 20, 2014  12:20pm

GBear423

Commuter, you are good.  You write respectfully and focused on the issue.  I disagree with you most times, though have high regard on how you present your ideas and point. kudos!

Officially (I do realize) there can be no nominee until we have a Governor Elect. I am certain Malloy will communicate his intentions to have a candidate that meets the criteria of our Public School Teachers’ demands. Pryor resigning is well timed, but I do not think that alone is going to swing anyone that sides with Pelto.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | August 20, 2014  1:22pm

Commuter - I am an opinion columnist. I get paid to write about my opinions and analysis. What you call “snark” others might call “voice.” I find it interesting that a supporter of Dan Malloy, who approved the infamous"John DeStefano in a Dress” advertisement can complain about “snark” with a straight face.

Funnily enough, that strong “voice”, and the fact that I back my opinions up with research, both things you seem to find so problematic, have gained me a much wider readership, including the chance to write a second piece for national publication. Clearly not everyone shares your aversion.

I’m curious as to what you could consider a “balanced” column on this subject. Every column I write is backed up with research. That is more than one can say for the arguments that Malloy used in our editorial board meeting with him. He tried to litigate falsehoods into fact - and when presented with research to the contrary, chose to ignore it.  When it comes to education and literacy, yes, I do consider that a character flaw. Judging by recent polls on Obama’s education policy, I am not alone.