Guest MINDSETTER™ Santos: RI Commerce Honcho Stefan Pryor’s Political Baggage
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
April 5, 2016: Four days after Betsy Wall Chief Marketing officer for the R.I Commerce Corp resigned her post RI Commerce Czar Stefan Pryor who had been conspicuously absent during the “Cooler Warmer” public melee surfaced to diffuse a bomb that had already exploded. “When anything happens within my team, I take responsibility,” Pryor said Tuesday. “I take responsibility across the board when anything happens that’s a mistake.” Pryor’s statement without offering his own pound of flesh carried as much weight as the “Cooler Warmer” slogan that dominated the news cycle for the last week. His evasive behavior before media and unwillingness to answer a direct question is arguably an acquired skill and cause to take a closer look at his previous post as Connecticut Education Czar.
Stefan Pryor’s watch as Connecticut Education Commissioner began Sept 2011. His education reform efforts (Common Core) were controversial and left him at odds with Connecticut’s Teachers Unions. 30 months into Pryor’s watch however Pryor’s relationship with Teachers Unions would take a back seat to a string of investigative reports released by The Hartford Courant.
June 20, 2014: The Hartford Current breaks a major story on Stefan Pryor’s watch that rattled Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration. FUSE (Family Urban Schools of Excellence) established in 2012 is a management company of three Jumoke charter schools and several elementary schools in Hartford and Bridgeport. FUSE was actively expanding charter school management into New Haven and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Courant called into question the academic credentials of FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe Ph.D. After finding Sharpe’s doctorate credentials were fabricated further research by the Courant revealed Sharpe had served 2 ½ years of a 5 year sentence in 1989 having embezzled $100,000 and defrauding the Bay Area Transit District (Oakland, Ca). Sharpe resigned in disgrace days after the Courant’s findings. In the final weeks of meltdown it was apparent FUSE was rife with mismanagement. Federal Investigators launched an investigation of FUSE management of millions of public and private funds, convened a Grand Jury, and issued a subpoena for all emails of Ed. Commissioner Stefan Pryor beginning January 2012. Until The Hartford Courant broke the news of CEO Michael Sharpe Stefan Pryor was a supporter of the embattled organization. June 27, 2014 Stefan Pryor calls for a State investigation of the FUSE Management organization.
August 18, 2014: Roughly 8 weeks after the initial Courant story broke Stefan Pryor announced he will be leaving his post by the end of the year. ‘Having served for nearly three fulfilling years as commissioner, I have decided to conclude my tenure by the end of this administration's current term ...,'' Pryor said. "Because I believe it's important to communicate my decision proactively to the governor and the public, I am doing so now." His announcement came as State and Federal investigations into FUSE were still active. Given Pryor’s rocky relationship with Teacher Unions over reform, and the unreckoned FUSE scandal on the Malloy/Pryor watch, Gov. Dannel Malloy needed distance in the upcoming election to secure his second term as Connecticut Governor.
In Rhode Island Politics the buck stops with the lowest person in the food chain, in this case Betsy Wall whose tenure of 3 months on Smith Hill may been the shortest to date. The military has a term wholly appropriate for the Keystone Cop like events on The Hill of the last 2 weeks but unfortunately “Rated X” for print in this venue and best left to the reader’s imagination. The RI Commerce Corp. which in a previous life delivered 38 Studios, by all rights should be dismantled and left to rust and decay on the four story scrap heap on Allens Avenue. This simple $5 Million Tourism campaign resulted in a PR disaster $50 Million couldn’t fix. The Rhode Island General assembly should be hard pressed to allocate a single buffalo nickel to Commerce Corp without a full public reckoning by Stefan Pryor. If Governor Raimondo expects to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms while serving her dream post in Washington D.C. she should be taking a long hard look at her Commerce Czar Stefan Pryor as did Governor Dannel Malloy.
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