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Pastor Makes Plea To Save New Haven Charter School

by | Jul 9, 2014 4:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share

Hugh McQuaid Photo Looking to salvage plans to open a school in New Haven this year, Pastor Eldren Morrison asked the state Wednesday to fast-track its vetting process of a new charter school partnership.

Morrison had previously received approval from the state Board of Education to open Booker T. Washington Academy (BTWA) in New Haven this year with the charter school organization Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) as a partner.

However, BTWA severed its affiliation with FUSE last month amidst a series of reports by the Hartford Courant on the charter school management group’s CEO, Michael Sharpe. The newspaper uncovered Sharpe’s undisclosed criminal conviction and published his admission that he had misrepresented his academic background and falsely claimed he had a doctorate.

Morrison appeared before the Board of Education again Wednesday and asked the panel to schedule a special session to quickly vet a replacement partner. The school’s board has submitted a new application to the state with Yardstick Learning, a Georgia-based consulting firm.

Morrison said he hoped to have the plan approved in time to open the school in August.

“We’ve submitted this plan and we are waiting. Every day that we wait, it pushes us back even further in the opening of this school,” he told the board. “. . . We have about 160-plus kids who have already registered for this school. Parents in our community are waiting for us to open the doors of this school. They believed in our vision, they believed in what Booker T. Washington would offer for their kids this year.”

In a written statement, Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said the agency was reviewing the new proposal.

“We look forward to discussing this preliminary submission with the Booker T. Washington Academy board. Among the areas for further discussion are the size of the initial student body and the plan’s overall viability,” she wrote.

Donnelly said the BTWA’s amended plan likely will be presented at a special Board of Education meeting sometime this summer.

Morrison’s appeal came the same day in which Bridgeport Interim Superintendent Frances Rabinowitz announced plans to follow BTWA’s lead and sever Bridgeport’s contract with FUSE to run Dunbar School.

The Education Department also outlined plans to review its oversight policies for charter schools, which includes a greater emphasis on background checks for staff.

Asked whether the state required stronger oversight policies for charter school organization, Morrison expressed skepticism that more laws would solve the problem.

“I’m a firm believer that if you’re seeking to be dishonest, you will find a way to do it,” he said.

Morrison told reporters he was caught off guard by the controversy with Sharpe and FUSE. He said the organization, which oversaw Jumoke Academy and Hartford’s Milner Elementary School, brought a “tried and true curriculum and approach” to his five-year effort to open a school in New Haven.

“We had no idea. This partnership was really much encouraged and we thought it was a great partnership. There was no indication of any of this. I think it surprised everybody,” he said.

Morrison said he was happy the revelations about Sharpe happened before the school opened. He said he has shared the story with members of his congregation at Varick AME Zion Church.

“As a pastor, I teach my people that all things happen for a reason. You learn from everything. This is just a real-life example and I’ve been using it every week,” he said.

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(6) Archived Comments

posted by: Linda12 | July 9, 2014  4:31pm

Isn’t Reverend Morrison on the ConnCan advisory board?


posted by: PWS2003 | July 9, 2014  5:42pm

Linda, Linda, Linda, spreading rumors again.He is on their Advisory Council and I’m sure that is quite different, don’t you think? lol.
http://www.conncan.org/about-us/advisory-council And besides, he is a man of the cloth, so he would not be making decisions for money reasons, right?

posted by: Parent and educator | July 9, 2014  8:42pm

Does the State Board of Education ignore the law?  How can a charter school plan—which was supposedly written with great care—be dropped one week and replaced with another?  For one thing, the Reverend Eldren Morrison has no educational background, so I would like to know what qualifies him to vet school companies.  Oh, but Morrison is on the board of *ConnCAN,* a charter school lobbying firm—whose CEO wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for the Booker T. Washington charter school—as did fellow ConnCAN board member Jeff Klaus.  Then there’s the Northeast Charter School Network, on whose board Michael Sharpe sat until very recently—in fact, Sharpe was one of the founders of NECSN.  Then, the new principal, John Taylor, was also a member or staffer on the NECSN—come on, this whole charter business is a racket.  Rev. and Mrs. Morrison (oh, yes, it appears that family members are involved—aren’t we now legislating against Charter School Nepotism?) were completely invested in the FUSE partnership (Morrison even admits that in this article!) but now they are changing plans—even though the separation from FUSE may involve a more formal legal proceeding.  Has anyone in the state read the Booker T. Washington charter school application?

posted by: Bulldog1 | July 10, 2014  11:30am

Well, shoes are starting to drop all over about the Charter School Industry. Both in Connecticut and nationwide.  No surprise really since all of this is part and parcel of the corporate nature of the enterprise.

Charter schools are only tangently related to education.  Rather children are the vehicle that will allow the commodification of education and thereby a river of cash for investors.  Imagine all public schools belonging to Corporate America?  Billons of dollars just hanging there for the DEO/Investor types to dip their beaks, deeply. 

The endless attacks on teachers and their unions are meant to deflect attention from the reality that without jobs and incomes for families changing the results in hartford AS A WHOLE won’t happen regardless of what Charter runs things.  Poverty still rules.  They don’t take troubled children, mentally disabled children or anyone who might drop their “success rate.”  It’s all about profit for those running the schools and the investors.

posted by: Linda12 | July 10, 2014  1:43pm

PWS2003, PWS2003,PWS2003…see parent and educator for more details. There are many many conflicts and questions. Man of the cloth, like Moales?

posted by: razzie | July 10, 2014  5:07pm

After buying into the “Dr.” Sharpe/FUSE flim-flam, and extolling the virtues of the FUSE “model” til the bitter end, we now want to reverse course in 1 month and again put 100% faith and reliance on the Mosaica/Yardstick Learning profit driven experience.

This exercise is little more than the monetization of our school kids— treating our children as little more than a commodity on whose backs millions of dollars will change hands. Who cares about the children and parents involved? Certainly not the actors involved in this charade.

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