HARTFORD — Two more top administrators have left a charter school management group in the aftermath of last weekend's resignation of its CEO, Michael Sharpe — who quit abruptly following disclosures in The Courant that he had never earned the doctorate he claimed and that he had served time in federal prison.
On Thursday, the management group called Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) also received the resignation of Chief Development Officer Andrea Comer, a veteran of Hartford politics who was appointed last year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to the State Board of Education.
"[I]t it is with very mixed feelings that I am informing you that I will be resigning my position effective July 4, 2014," Comer wrote in a letter emailed Thursday evening to Jeff Digel, interim chairman of FUSE's board of directors.
In the letter, obtained by The Courant, Comer said she's "incredibly proud of the strides this … organization has made" — and made no mention of the group's recent public embarrassment over Sharpe. Reached by phone, she declined to comment. Comer's FUSE annual pay exceeds $100,000, but the exact amount is unknown because the group has declined to release salary figures.
Meanwhile, sources also told The Courant of the departure of still another six-figure administrator from FUSE's senior management team: Leanne Masterjoseph, FUSE's chief academic officer and the holder of a doctorate in education from UConn, has left the staff.
Masterjoseph could not be reached for comment Thursday, and FUSE would neither officially confirm her exit nor answer questions from The Courant about the circumstances.
An employee who answered the phone at FUSE, but would not provide her name, said Thursday that Masterjoseph no longer worked there. Also, Masterjoseph's Facebook page identified her as "Former Chief academic officer at Family Urban Schools of Excellence."
FUSE's silence about Masterjoseph was in keeping with its continued refusal — despite continued pressure from the governor and other officials — to provide financial details concerning Sharpe's separation from employment.
Charter schools are classified as public agencies under the state's Freedom of Information Act. Public agencies are obligated by law to supply information and documents upon request in the same way that town and city school systems must do.
Information that FUSE has declined to provide to The Courant this week includes:
•Whether Sharpe will receive a pension or other retirement benefits after leaving the top job that he said paid him $180,000 a year.
•A list of its employees and their salaries, which a public relations representative for the group said was "private information."
•Any resume that Sharpe might have submitted, which could show what FUSE's board of directors knew about his background and academic credentials when he was hired as CEO.
•Terms of a lease that Sharpe said he has for an apartment he's been living in for "about $1,000" a month at 852 Asylum Ave. in Hartford, a building owned by the Jumoke Academy charter schools organization in Hartford. Those schools are managed by FUSE.
Sharpe will be moving out of that apartment "within the next few days," FUSE's public relations representative, Robert Bellafiore, said Wednesday. When asked follow-up questions — including the exact amount of rent, and whether Sharpe had made the payments — Bellafiore said he would have to go back to FUSE to get the answers.
By the end of the day Thursday, Bellafiore, who is based in Albany, said he had no further information to offer. He also said that he would no longer be representing FUSE.
"I was there 'pro bono' as a [volunteer] stopgap to get them through the announcement of the leadership change" involving Sharpe's resignation, he said Thursday night. However, "any future media inquiries should be directed to FUSE."
FUSE, created in 2012, runs three Jumoke Academy public charter schools that receive millions in state grants. FUSE has been saying this week that it is a private organization, distinct from the actual Jumoke charter schools.
The Jumoke schools have received $53 million in state taxpayer funds since the 1998 fiscal year, and on Wednesday, the co-chairwoman of the General Assembly's education committee said that such massive public funding brings with it a duty for public accountability and disclosure.
Sen. Andrea Stillman, the co-chairwoman, said she couldn't answer the legal question of whether FUSE, as a management organization, is a "public agency" under the FOI law in the same way that actual charter schools are. But the superintendents and other administrators who manage towns' and cities' school are subject to the FOI Act, and their equivalents who run charter schools also should be, officials have been saying this week.