OP-ED | Another Week, Another Scandal
Another week, and another education scandal here in the Nutmeg State. The FBI served subpoenas on charter school operator FUSE last Friday morning, and shortly after their visit Hartford Courant reporters found the receptionist shredding documents. “Asked what was being shredded, she said the documents were associated with the state-subsidized Jumoke charter schools.” Obstruction of justice, anyone?
Meanwhile, after the notoriously opaque state Department of Education declined to issue reporters a copy of their own FBI-issued subpoena, the Courant received this statement Monday from Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly: “We have been assured that the department is not a subject of this investigation.” Okay then. That’s clear.
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Yet by Tuesday, it was another story. Apparently, the subpoena seeks, among other things, “All emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor” since January 2012.
What’s more, according to the Courant:
On Tuesday, Donnelly said she could not provide the name of the person responsible for the assurance or under what circumstances it was given. She said that someone from “law enforcement” had said something to “our legal team, staff attorneys.” Asked what was said, she replied that she didn’t have the exact words, but it was “relayed to us” that no one at the agency is “the subject of an investigation, or a target.”
Well, clear as mud, I guess.
What a difference 24 hours makes in Hartford. It’s like watching a soap opera, “As the Spin Turns. “
Actually, it’s more like, “As My Stomach Turns,” because those of us who have been asking real questions about the legitimacy of charter school “success” statistics for the last several years have been feeling sick as we watch the programs that work in schools get cut while more of our taxpayer dollars get siphoned away from the district and community schools into organizations run by Friends (and friends of campaign contributors) of Dan Malloy and Stefan Pryor.
Although the Courant finally has terrific and effective investigative reporter Jon Lender on the story, on June 16, hours before the Sharpe story broke, the paper’s editorial page — which has since been updated — was still repeating the familiar and unjustified refrain about FUSE’s “success”:
You hear that folks? The Hartford Courant editorial board wanted to give more schools — and more of our taxpayer dollars — to “successful” school operators like Jumoke — just hours before the entire organization blew up and couple of weeks before the subpoenas got served.
Note to self: Don’t ever act on stock market tips from the Courant’s editorial board.
Joking aside, is it any wonder that politicians have been able to get away with so much corruption in this state when the “paper of record” has remained blissfully uncritical for so long?
Meanwhile, over in New London, another faux doctor has emerged from the edufraud stew — and at the rate he’s going, Terrence P. Carter, the incoming Superintendent of Schools, will soon be claiming doctoral degrees from as many schools as Larry King has had wives.
Carter reportedly has alternatively claimed to have doctorates from Stanford University, Hamersfield University in London, Lexington University, and Lesley University. This last is the only degree that state and local education officials, not to mention McPherson and Jacobson, the search firm paid $16,000 to vet the candidate, actually confirmed with a transcript — although the degree won’t actually be awarded until Aug. 25 of this year. Yet the Courant reports that Carter has been claiming a doctorate for over five years, on tax documents, in conference bios, and in communications. It doesn’t inspire confidence of the kind of honesty and integrity you’d want in the man you’re about to put in charge of a district that already has financial challenges.
Carter also listed a “Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies” from National Louis University in Chicago. But according to officials there, although he finished the necessary coursework he didn’t submit the degree finalization paperwork. Our state Department of Education isn’t bothered by this lack of an actual certificate.
According to the Courant, Education Department spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said, “all that matters concerning Carter’s official qualifications as an administrator are the hours that he completed, so the transcript is enough.”
This just shows a level of inattention to detail and follow through that is disturbing for someone who will be in charge of a school district and should be modeling behavior for the children he serves. Would any college admission office take a student who’d done all the high school work but hadn’t filled out the college application? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Is this really the person to help kids become college and career ready?
I was also surprised by Ms. Donnelly’s statement because my appointment as an adjunct at WCSU was conditional upon providing a transcript, sent directly from the institution where I’d matriculated, to prove that I’d actually received the Master’s degree, which is now a requirement for an adjunct job in the state university system. I wasn’t aware that the rules were so . . . flexible.
So I posed this question to Ms. Donnelly: “I’m curious as to why a lowly adjunct getting paid peanuts would be jumping through more stringent hoops than an administrator who will be in charge of a substantial budget — especially with a $200 million school construction project involved. I’m wondering if you could comment on that.”
She had not responded as of deadline.
At this point, I’m hoping the FBI will help us connect the rest of the dots. It’ll be interesting to see just how far — and how wide — the dot trail leads.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
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