Appointed School Board Members Tout Fresh Start, New Education Vision

Redirecting resources, reversing the dropout rate, preparing students for college, increased administrative access and accountability and a prenatal education strategy are among the components members of the state-appointed school board highlight in a commentary for the Connecticut Post. With kudos toward Mayor Bill Finch for his proposed financial investment in city schools, board members set forth their vision for the school system. Commentary below:

Last week, the Bridgeport Board of Education approved a budget that will financially stabilize the district and serve as a blueprint for dramatic academic improvement in all of our students. Our goal is clear: Provide each student with an education that sees them graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college, their chosen career and in life.

The plan to address the needs of the students in the district is rooted in and reflects the input we received during our listening tours and community forums with parents, students, teachers, administrators, staff, community organizations, higher education and the community at large as we began our work as a board. That input was the lens through which we judged the comprehensive and exciting plan for improvement developed by Superintendent Paul Vallas and his dynamic team. We feel this plan is “right on” in addressing what we learned from you.

Clearly, this plan would not have been possible without the unprecedented involvement and support of Mayor Bill Finch and his staff. The partnership built between the board and the mayor’s office and the additional financial support from the city are the cornerstones of this plan. We greatly appreciate the mayor’s passion and support.

The additional funding and support provided in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed legislation for educational competitiveness is also vitally important to the success of our plan. We salute the governor for his bold leadership in education reform.

We have a long way to go, and the current statistics are sobering and unacceptable by any standards. For example:

– Currently, only half of our high school students are earning diplomas. The rest drop out or fail to graduate. Many of those who do graduate are far from prepared for college work. Housatonic Community College reports that more than 85 percent of their entering freshmen required some remedial work before taking college level courses, and of all who applied, 47 percent scored at the fourth-grade math level on standardized placement tests.

– Students are not entering high school at grade level, and we know that 70 percent of students who fail their freshman year drop out altogether.

The plan approved last week addresses these and other issues by aligning the district’s resources with proven school improvement strategies. Resources–human, physical and financial–will be managed with transparency and distributed with equity. The newly approved Bridgeport public schools’ financial and academic plan seeks to ensure that all students are proficient at grade level and are provided an opportunity to participate in a high school experience that emphasizes rigorous academics, early college and workplace training.

We have set a fresh course for this district. Going forward, you will see:
1. Attention and resources focused on the schools, as opposed to the central office, and a school-based budgeting model that ensures that resources follow the students.

2. A school-based strategy that recognizes the central office’s role is to be a “school support organization.”

3. A system of accountability and transparency at all levels where resources are distributed to schools using clear and understandable formulas. Parents and the community at large will have easy access to information about district and individual school finances, and individual school performance.

4. An education strategy that begins in the prenatal phase, recognizing that babies need to be born healthy and that the major part of brain development occurs in the first three years of life, thus necessitating the opportunity for parent training, early literacy and numeracy.

5. A comprehensive education strategy that ensures: that (1) all teachers have access to a consistent research-based curriculum and instructional models aligned to district, state and common core standards; (2) all teachers and administrators have the training needed to deliver effective instruction; and (3) that the school day and school year are structured in such a way as to provide sufficient “time on task” for students so that teachers can be effective.

6. A student assessment and intervention system that: (1) provides the schools with frequent, ongoing information regarding individual student progress and teacher effectiveness throughout the school year; and (2) ensures appropriate assistance for struggling students and supports that address teachers’ needs.

7. A high school strategy that ensures that middle school students are prepared for high school and provides critical high school supports such as re-teach centers, homework clubs, school-based and online tutoring, and credit recovery opportunities to help keep our students in high school and on the path to graduation.

8. Expansion of the number of comprehensive high schools from three to eight, which will dramatically increase high school and educational program options for students across the district. Programs will include early college, dual enrollment, work study, apprenticeships and a wide variety of other educational opportunities.

9. School facilities that are environmentally clean, safe and secure, and classrooms that are modernized with the technology needed to support effective instruction.

10. A school discipline policy that is clear, consistent and effective and that promotes positive student behavior through character education, community service, clubs and extracurricular activities, as well as fully defined and appropriate consequences for inappropriate student behavior that are consistently administered.

11. A financial plan that is reasonable and achievable through equitably shared sacrifices, which ensure that the school district has long-term financial stability and that the education reforms are financed and sustainable.

12. An opportunity for unprecedented parent and community involvement in the schools through: (1) local parent and community councils with clear, specified roles and responsibilities; (2) parent and community centers within schools; and (3) school partnerships with faith-based organizations, business associations and other pillars of the community.

13. Establishment of a Good Schools Bridgeport Foundation to raise funds and play a catalytic role in support of the implementation of the plan.

This ambitious, comprehensive and far-reaching plan is not only exciting–it is necessary. While it will be challenging to build a new system while still functioning in the old, we believe it is a manageable challenge. We know this will not be easy, but the alternative of another generation of children receiving a substandard education that does not prepare them to reach their potential is not acceptable.

We greatly appreciate the outpouring of offers of support from individuals and organizations both within and outside the district, wanting to know how they can best assist Bridgeport schools. We are excited by the opportunity to work with all of you on this critical chapter of our children’s futures.

Thank you for your passion, commitment and involvement. Together, we can make this happen.

You can view the full plan at

Robert Trefry, Chair
David Norton, Vice Chair
Jacqueline Kelleher, Secretary
Kenneth Moales Jr.
Judith Bankowski
Hernan Illingworth
Michele Black Smith-Tompkins

Bridgeport Board of Education



  1. Well this is all fine and dandy, well written and put together. I have one problem. We have a mayor who for four years ignored the BOE and its 20,000 kids. He did not do one thing in those four years to help the kids or teachers.
    Here we are in the 5th year of his administration and he gets on his white horse and gallops in saying he is the savior of the school system. BS. What he wants is access to the education monies, pure and simple. You mark my words, when he and his administrators get a hold of this money he will hide like he does in his yearly budget.

  2. Well said Andy. The circus is on and everybody is looking at the ring in the center of the tent where Mayor Finch stands with his whistle and whip. But he does not own the circus. He struts for it. And makes speeches for it. But the taxpayers of Bridgeport (and sometimes the voters) own this circus and you have to listen to Bill Finch the showman to separate truth from fiction. That is what is going on at the moment with a close look at the budget and the Mayor’s cover letter and his story of what he says he is about. Trust but verify.

    I’ll use one example today that is fresh on my mind. The Mayor has talked about closing out 200 positions while in office and another 26 in this year ahead. Well I went back to the 2008 budget, his first full year as mayor and checked the numbers from that budget presentation and compared it to the 2013 plan just put before us. It looks like there are 222.5 fewer employees in the City for 2013 than presented in 2008, and that is within 10% of what the Mayor has claimed so I accept his statement as to the number. But then I looked at which department suffered the greatest employee decrease and saw it was in the Education budget where there are 178 fewer employees for 2013 than in the 2008 budget. (Wow, did the Mayor accomplish that?)

    Hey, wait just a minute!!! Didn’t the Mayor get the Charter Revision process started so he could become accountable for control and good results which we are not getting with student achievement today? But if the decrease in employment in the City was because of him, then he has that control anyway and already? And if he doesn’t have that control but is claiming success for something he did not accomplish, can he be trusted to be accountable and truthful in the future? (Oh, my head is starting to hurt me.)

    Mayor Bill and his advisers make it hard to verify and just when you verify a number you begin to think about it and realize the Mayor probably has stretched the truth again. How say you?

    What I want Mayor Finch and Superintendent Paul Vallas to present is a chart showing everybody (from the City side including payroll, public facilities, IT, security guards, maintenance, etc. of any kind as well as traditional BOE employees) working in City education activities, showing who does what and the expense of their efforts as far as salary, benefits, supplies, etc. Then and only then will we begin to know whether Bridgeport or the State of CT or anybody is paying a “fair share” to move the system in favor of the kids for a change.

    A Table of Organization will then show what the City side is really devoting to the education of our youth in total, and we can also understand what is being funded by State ECS, other grants, Federal funds and those from others who wish to assist meeting the needs of Bridgeport kids. Comprehensive budgets for all revenues and all expenses are the way to go. Let’s see if Bill and Paul are able to deliver that to the taxpayer. Time will tell.

  3. Here is a systemwide announcement from Paul Vallas

    April 4, 2012

    TO: Aresta Johnson
    Alejandro Ortiz
    Kevin Walston
    Eric Graf
    James Denton

    PC: Dr. Sandra Kase
    Teresa Carroll
    BOE All

    FROM: Paul G. Vallas
    Superintendent of Schools


    Effective immediately, high school principals and directors of alternative programs should report any building issues, including those related to incidents and facilities to John Fabrizi. Mr. Fabrizi will assist you on all matters that do not pertain to curriculum.

    All curriculum matters should be directed and discussed with Teresa Carroll and/or Dr. Sandra Kase.

    Thank you.

  4. Talk about transparency! Big raises for John Fabrizi and Terry Carroll (aka Charlie’s sister). I would say Vallas’ intentions are transparent alright. He fits right in with the Finch/Wood/DTC good ol’ boys. What does JML have to say about that? What’s this I hear about laying off paraprofessionals? Doesn’t AFSCME have a two-year no layoff in their contract? Anna bragged about that and got all her members to support the Wood/Finch ticket. Is she getting kicked to the curb now? Live and learn, Anna, live and learn.

  5. Roosevelt School was suppose to move into the UB swing space in April. That has been pushed back to the end of the school year. One might celebrate that decision if it were based on the fact it would be unwise to disrupt the academic process in April to pack up a school and move into a new space, but that is not the reason.
    The reason for the delay … Bill Finch.
    Even though the plans for the new Roosevelt School have been on public display for close to a year … on Monday Bill decided he didn’t like the way the new school looked on the property.
    So he ordered everyone back to the drawing board. New designs, new specs … the whole design has been scrapped. The new design must include an astroturf athletic field as well. Have you ever heard of an astroturf field at an elementary school?
    Who is getting kickbacks for the new design? This decision has set the new school opening back by at least a year. It means Roosevelt will be in the swing space longer. It means whoever was next for the swing space will be delayed … and so on.
    Nice move Bill.

  6. This is what you will get from an appointed board of ed. A pledge of allegiance to the person doing the appointing.
    This is not what you will get from an elected board of ed. Their allegiance will be to the residents doing the voting.
    I know yahooy may not agree but with the elected board you always have the chance. With an appointed one they know no loyalty except to the Mayor.

  7. JML has been reading the Budget presented by Bill Finch on Monday and preparing a multi-page statement about the Budget (the Mayor needs to do some genuine “cutting”), about fiscal governance (and the Charter Review Commission should listen to David Walker and JML on that subject rather than limiting conversation to “three minute” slices) and finally about Mayoral accountability for reporting to the public, comprehensive accountability for every dollar received and spent in the name of the City, accountability for failing to abide by Charter and Ordinance language that is specific and important, just because Bill Finch see himself as unaccountable!!!
    If Bill is into school design these days, it figures. Why not? Who is going to complain? And since when is there anyone in the City who can ask him what the rejected design work up until now has cost whomever, and what the new expense will be? One-man government is called monarchy. And an American City Council that lets itself be handled the way this one does is called a “royal court” although others may consider them a royal something else. And the rest of us, the 99%, “let them eat cake” or let them pay increased taxes!
    The Charter review group that went for a stronger Mayor form of government 20 years ago had in mind previous Mayors of this City who knew about personal integrity and had some understanding of opposition. I don’t think they had a practitioner of megalomania on their radar screens. And perhaps it is good this is going on while the CRC is still meeting. Maybe they will see how the appointments of Mayoral friendly members to look at this one educational issue in a rush in order to give the Mayor more power is not about ACCOUNTABILITY at all or ever. It is about CONTROL and we are seeing what that means today across the board. Several people have commented on my view on Paul Vallas. I get to meet him next week and will post my reflections on moving the City forward educationally, per a plan, and within financial constraints afterwards. In the meantime, if anyone else is reading the budget, check your favorite department and raise a question for B.O.B. We need the village to raise questions as well as Hell about taxes. Time will tell.

  8. No more white paper, schools have to eat costs of any computer/equipment losses/breaks, ink jet cartridge refill requests are being ignored, and the copy machines run with spit and wire.

    All I can say is parents can now expect their IEP’s and sped reports to be issued on Pepto-Bismol pink paper with practically invisible goals and objectives.

  9. The Bridgeport Board of Ed and the new superintendent are planning to change the names of the three high schools as part of the new plan. Vallas High School?


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