Embattled Charter Partner Resigns

Melissa Bailey File PhotoMichael Sharpe, the man Rev. Eldren Morrison chose to help open a charter school in New Haven, has left his position in a cloud of deceit. Morrison said he’s sticking with that man’s model of schooling.

Sharpe, CEO of the organization that runs the Jumoke charter schools in Hartford, resigned Saturday in the wake of revelations about his criminal past.

Sharpe (pictured) also confessed Friday he had lied for years about being a doctor of education and graduating from New York University, according to the Hartford Courant.

Morrison, pastor of Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Newhallville, recruited Sharpe to New Haven to help start a new charter school, the Booker T. Washington Academy. Morrison hired Sharpe’s organization, Family Urban Schools of Education (FUSE), to run the school with state funding. FUSE, which runs three Jumoke Academy charter schools, is also managing state-funded turnaround schools in Bridgeport and Hartford.

Sharpe’s troubles emerged in a series of articles in the Hartford Courant last week, in which Hartford and state officials said they were unaware of Sharpe’s past imprisonment for embezzling public money.

Morrison on Friday stood by Sharpe. So did the Northeast Charter Schools Network, which issued an op-ed defending Sharpe and made plans to mobilize troops to rally behind him on Monday at Jumoke Academy.

Sharpe’s fate took a turn for the worse at the end of the week, when he acknowledged to the Courant that he had never received a doctorate in education, nor graduated from New York University, despite claiming those titles for years in published literature and in remarks to the state legislature.

Sharpe submitted a resignation letter Saturday to the FUSE Board of Directors. He said he intends to “return to school to complete my graduate studies.”

“I will continue to be a voice for children of color in urban centers, albeit in a different realm,” he wrote.

Jeff Digel, member of FUSE’s board, released a statement on behalf of the board accepting Sharpe’s immediate resignation.

“Mr. Sharpe has served as an example of how one can turn personal adversity into lessons for others, and we as a community are grateful for his service on behalf of urban students and families. The schools in which Mr. Sharpe has been involved are helping turn lives around and his impact will be felt for decades to come, in the lives that have been changed through these schools.”

Reached Monday, Pastor Morrison said he still will schedule a meeting of his charter school board to address the matter. The date has not yet been set.

Morrison declined to comment at length about FUSE before informing his board members and supporters. But he said Booker T. Washington Academy would keep “the FUSE model.”

“I am still clear of what I’m doing in terms of standing by the FUSE model. Dr. Sharpe resigned, but the FUSE model is solid. That’s where we are,” he said.

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posted by: Theodora on June 24, 2014  8:50am

How much of the charter acceptance was based on FUSE and the lies of it felon leader? Given that, and the inability of Varick to ferret it out, shouldn’t revocation be on the table?

posted by: Noteworthy on June 24, 2014  9:18am

Educate Self Notes:

1. Is it arrogance or ignorance that leads Rev. Morrison to continue to embrace the ever shrinking FUSE/Dr. or Mr. Sharpe? What is the FUSE model if not for Jumoke? It’s really the Jumoke model.

2. The question is why stick with FUSE/Jumoke when the people who knew Sharpe best were not capable of ascertaining the truth? How could that happen? Why didn’t they ask for credentials? Do they require credentials or can anybody hang out a shingle and say, “I’m a reformer.”

3. Moreover, this episode seems to showcase a serious lack of management skills by the organizers and one has to wonder, if the state gives you millions, and the school actually opens, how will they run it?

posted by: Walt on June 24, 2014  9:23am

If the school is still producing well-trained kids,  keep it going.

Don’t destroy the opportunities for young folk

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 24, 2014  9:46am

FUSE and Jumoke are the same.I think down the road FUSE will also shut down.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on June 24, 2014  9:49am

It would be wise for the pastor of Varick Church and the Board of Booker T. Washington Academy to sever all ties with FUSE and totally disassociate themselves from Michael Sharpe. The man and the educational organization are fully intertwined and tainted with fraud, scandal, deceit, and controversy.
Surely there are other successful “models” which the leaders of Booker T. Washington Academy can use to conduct their school.
This whole ordeal is puzzling to me. I thought this whole idea of Varick Church leaders and members to promote a charter school in the community would have members of the community running the school, not some private educational firm with no roots in the community. If church leaders had a vision to set up a new school, that vision, in my opinion, should have included educational policies and strategies and a philosophy created by local educators. Maybe I am too naive, but surely there are enough educators in New Haven to create a charter school without resorting to some professional firm run by people who have little or no direct experience with urban education.
Rev. Morrison, Mr. Sharpe has no PhD, so please refrain from referring to him as “Dr. Sharpe.” He is a fraud and a liar and that makes his organization suspect and questionable. Why start this school under this dark shadow? What is the reason for this commitment to FUSE?
Evil communications corrupt good manners. Do not let your intended good be spoken of as evil. Do not let the educational birthright of the young people of Dixwell-Newhallville be sold for a mess of FUSE pottage!

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on June 24, 2014  9:54am

It’s interesting that Morrison and others have vehemently expressed their desire to stand behind Sharpe but when will someone stand up for the students? BTW bills itself as a school that will instill the values of integrity and character in its students and hold them to a higher standard.  While I don’t believe that we should just “throw away” someone because of a past transgression building a school on the model set by someon with such a cloud of controversy seems counterproductive. It also seems dangerous for te state to grant a charter to a group with such limited credibility.

Even Morrison is serious about BTW I’d suggest he clean house.  Create a credible board staffed by people with actual knowledge of/expertise in education and business management rather than family and staff, and build the school on a firmer foundation.  As a parent I’d be leery of sending my child there in the fall until all this was addressed

posted by: Brutus2011 on June 24, 2014  11:34am

Here is a portal into the workings of how schools are run.

Public schools are run by people who operate as administrators of policies they and the state set for teaching children.

These administrators have dominion and control over the people who actually teach and serve our children.

Charter school administrators do not have to comply with such myriad state regulations. Public school managers do—not that it makes much difference.

Public school teachers do have to comply with what are the most stringent teacher certification requirements in the entire country. Charter school teachers are not required to do so by state law.

The facts are that BTW Academy is being headed by a minister, his wife, and his trusted assistant. And, his wife intends to work directly in the academy. And all with public funds—but that is a whole other issue.

From the facts I have seen reported, Booker T Washington Academy is being formed and run by people who might not be able to translate their ability to run a growing church into an ability to run a school.

I suggest that Rev Morrison rescind his charter application and prayerfully consider other community service options.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on June 24, 2014  12:05pm

Amen to Thomas Alfred Paine.

There’s a place in society for entrepreneurship and family businesses.

I firmly believe that schools—and, for that matter, churches—are not that place.  The temptations are too great.  The opportunities for grift and nepotism are too great.  The stakes are too high.  Tax exemption and power over people’s lives, and their children’s futures, should be accompanied by transparency, accountability, and adherence to best practices.

posted by: Razzie on June 24, 2014  1:34pm

“I am still clear of what I’m doing in terms of standing by the FUSE model. Dr. Sharpe resigned, but the FUSE model is solid. That’s where we are,” he said.”

Rev. Morrison needs to understand that there is no “Dr. Sharpe”. That fraud lies at the center of tis entire controversy. And there is no credible “FUSE model”, as that too has been built upon the lies and deception of its founder. That seems to be the essential finding of Principal Lott, who worked closely with Sharpe in the Hartford turnaround project recently terminated by that school administration. Her findings of lack of supplies, expertise and sound educational policy should serve as clear warnings to BTWA officials. And now that Sharpe has resigned from FUSE, where does that leave BTWA in terms of havng the capacity to go forward this coming fall?

It is incumbent on Rev. Morrison to hold his Board of Directors meeting ASAP, and to invite the general public who may be considering placing their children in the new charter school. Parents need a lot more information on the resources available to BTWA, and whether those resources are sufficient to carry out a sound educational program. Perhaps a delay in the start-up date for BTWA is in order, along with a restructuring of the Board and staff resources to be relied upon.