Connecticut Taps Charter School Founder as Schools Chief

By Sean Cavanagh — September 07, 2011 2 min read
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Stefan Pryor, a top city official in Newark, N.J., who has a background in charter schools, has been named Connecticut’s next commissioner of education.

Pryor currently serves as deputy mayor for economic development for the city of Newark, but he has extensive ties to Connecticut.

He worked as policy adviser to the mayor of New Haven, Conn., from 1994 to 1997, and was the co-founder of a widely praised charter school in that city, Amistad Academy. A group that set about to expand Amistad’s model, Achievement First, has since opened additional schools in New Haven and New York City, according to Pryor’s bio. For a colorful and detailed overview of Amistad Academy, which discusses its origins and its academic approach, check out Education Week Teacher’s 2006 profile of the school.

Before coming to Newark, Pryor worked as president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. In that capacity, he served as the agency’s chief executive. The organization was created by New York state and city officials to plan and help coordinate the physical and economic rebuilding of Lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks.

He also has served as the vice president at the Partnership for New York City, a business organization, leading the organization’s public education efforts and acting as executive director of its main school reform program.

Additionally, Pryor teamed with Paul Vallas, the former school leader in Chicago, Philadelphia, and more recently, Louisiana’s Recovery School District, to develop plans for rebuilding and improving schools in Haiti, following that country’s devastating earthquake.

The state board of education in Connecticut recommends the commissioner to the governor, Dannel P. Malloy, who announced Pryor’s appointment today.

“Stefan Pryor is the whole package,” Malloy said in a statement Wednesday. “His experience working as a turnaround leader in the economic development arena, combined with his leadership on education issues, will help him turn the department of education into an agency that helps prepare our state’s children for whichever path they may choose.”

Pryor is one of a number of former charter school officials who have moved into top positions in education departments. New York’s commissioner of education, John King, who co-founded the charter school Roxbury Prep in Massachusetts and led the charter network Uncommon Schools, is another.

Photo: Stefan Pryor, center, chosen as the next Connecticut State Department of Education commissioner, waits to be introduced at a news conference by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, second from right, on Sept. 7. (Jessica Hill/AP)

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.