Letters to the NAACP: Quality Education and Charter School Problems

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Today, the NAACP will hold a hearing down in New Haven, CT to discuss quality education and their recent resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools. The NAACP made an announcement about this meeting earlier this week. Due to the late notice and distance from Hartford, a number of parents told me they could not make it. But in the digital age, distance and last-minute hearings are not always a roadblock.

This morning, a parent sent me a note regarding her child’s difficult experience in a charter school. Her story is a counter-narrative to what the charter school industry and lobby tells us that (especially) Black and Latinx children need in education (e.g. “no excuses”, standardized test preparation, private management, limited teacher and student rights). You can read several counter-narratives below, which have not been edited or changed from their original format.

Do you have a charter school story that you want to share with the NAACP about quality public education and/or charter school problems, but could not make the meeting? You can share your story with me by posting a comment, sending me an e-mail (Robert.Cotto@trincoll.edu), or tagging me on Twitter (@robertcottojr).

Zaida Berrios, grandparent, Hartford, Connecticut. (Sent to NAACP and shared on Facebook on 12/3/2016)

AF Story 1 AF Story 2 AF Story 3 AF Story 4 AF Story 5 AF Story 6 AF Story 7

LaKeisha McFarland, parent, Hartford, CT (comment sent on 12/3/2016)

My name is LaKeisha
I had my daughter attend Achievement First School. I get a call out of the blue. After 8 at night. The Lady on the phone said my daughter, has been accepted. As parent. I’m excited, My daughter was attending SANDS SCHOOL, at that time, was having trouble doing her work in class. Due to other kids disruption of the class. I never fill out paperwork saying that, I applied for ACHIEVEMENT FIRST SCHOOL, At that time. I knew nothing about that school. I’m thinking it’s a Magnet School. Once my daughter got in, everything was smooth. I’m okay with wearing uniforms, shirt tucked in, brown or black belts. Only white or black sneakers. Daughter doing good at the school… Achievement First, we get her a pair of new sneakers, she’s doing so well in school now. Black with a little red in them. She can’t wear them. Now I’m upset, I keep my cool. Let it pass. Later on she been at the school for about couple years, at that time, I goes to visit. To see how my girl doing, I wasn’t allowed. I need an appointment. The lady was rude. Found out kids had to wear whit shirt, if in trouble, kids pissed on themselves, if not allowed to go to the bathroom, you stayed in one room all day, for something minor, like a dropped pencil, or not giving the teacher eye to eye. I can go on, wait! I must mention. My daughter was bullied, no one from that school, brought this to My attention, my daughter did, when she had a knife in her hand, said she was being bullied, I don’t talk about it. This memory take me to a dark side, I never want to see anyone child go through. Thank the man above. I did the best. Was to remove the my daughter from that School.

Jaclyn Pioli, parent advocate, Stamford, CT, (comment sent on 12/3/2016)


I am a parent advocate in Stamford, my name is Jaclyn Pioli. I have been investigating the DOMUS charter school program for over a year and I discovered your blogs along the way. I would be grateful for any help that you might be able to give me. I have discovered what I believe is incontrovertible evidence that the DOMUS charter school program as it is being run in Connecticut is benefitting its administrators and investors to the detriment of the children in its charge. I have found fundamental inconsistencies with the validity of the charter school renewal process with the state; specifically regarding test scores, and the supposed elimination of in school suspensions and use of “holding” rooms. Mike Dugan, who originally started the charter school in 1999 had an agreement then with former mayor Malloy that Stamford Public Schools would cover 100% of the teaching staff salaries. SPS has honored this agreement, blindly, as current board members and administration at central office had no idea of the agreement, nor what the money was being used for. Or so they claim. My calculations indicate that $16.5 million dollars over the last ten years has paid for non-certified teaching staff. A fact that may have come to light sooner had SPS audited the grant even once over the last 20 years. The documented outcomes attributed to the program clearly illustrate that year after year, these children are essentially warehoused at DOMUS facilities for a finite period of time before they are reintegrated into the Stamford Public School system, having made minimal growth at best. Once they are returned to SPS with their weaknesses uncorrected, they are ushered through the grades lubricated by all manner of sliding scales and ethically questionable scoring practices. This sordid state of affairs is bad enough. Factor in the salaries earned by the program administrators that climb well into the six figure range and you reveal yet another example of those with means enriching, or further enriching, themselves at the expense of those without. This is made doubly grotesque when one considers that every single dollar SPS is allotting to DOMUS programs, is no longer available for Public School students who desperately need the services that it could have helped secure them. Too, I believe that I have identified an incestuous circle of self interest that revolves from ex-Mayor Malloy, to Mike Duggan, to the Bridgewater hedge fund, to the Dalio foundation and finally SPS.

The systems flaws are being exploited by people who have no interest at all in these children who are depending on them. Children who desperately need all the help that they can get. I would like very much to do something about that, because it is upon their shoulders that our future as a nation rests.

Thank you very much,



Published by

Robert Cotto Jr.

Robert Cotto, Jr. is currently the Director of Urban Educational Initiatives at Trinity College and a Lecturer in the Educational Studies department. Before his work at Trinity, he was a Senior Policy Fellow in K-12 Education for CT Voices for Children where he published reports on Connecticut’s testing system, public school choice, and K-12 education data and policy. He taught for seven years as a social studies teacher at the Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and International Studies (MLC), an interdistrict magnet school intended to provide a high-quality education and promote racial, ethnic, and economic integration. Born and raised in Connecticut, Mr. Cotto was the first in his family to go to college and he earned his B.A. degree in sociology at Dartmouth College, his Ed.M. at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and an M.A. in American Studies at Trinity College. He is serving his second term on the Hartford Board of Education and in the past has served as Secretary and Policy Committee Chair. Since returning back home to CT from college, Robert has lived in the Frog Hollow neighborhood and he recently moved to the Forster Heights area of the Southwest neighborhood.