Bagley, Pouchet, Marching To Working Families Party Drum, Bag BOE Candidates Forum–Claim ‘Plantation Mentality’–Excel Bridgeport Responds

John Bagley
John Bagley boycots education forum.

Strange as it may seem, a special election for four open Board of Education seats will take place September 4. Good grief, will the turnout hit 10 percent? Next Wednesday Aug. 22, the Burroughs Community Center, 2470 Fairfield Avenue, is scheduled to host a candidates forum from 6 to 8 p.m. sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Bridgeport and the education advocacy group Excel Bridgeport

Connecticut’s Working Families Party has endorsed legendary Bridgeport hoop star John “Bags” Bagley and Barbara Pouchet, active in education issues, to appear on the ballot. Bags and Pouchet, straight out of the WFP demagoguery playbook, are boycotting the forum. The candidates maintain it’s better to boycott and demonize Excel Bridgeport? Talk about a reversal of intolerance.

Baraka, Pereira
Sauda Baraka, left, and Maria Pereira, right, won election to the Bridgeport BOE on the Working Families Party line.

The Connecticut WFP became an education player in Bridgeport with the surprise election of Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka three years ago. Excel Bridgeport leadership has stated a mayoral-appointed Board of Education is part of the solution to improve city schools. Voters will decide in November if that’s the right way to go or stick with an elected body. What’s more democratic than letting the people decide? John Bagley is more than a famous hoop star, he’s a prince of a guy. Hopefully, Bags will step up (Pouchet too) and tell us why they should be elected on September 4. (The KKK reference to the League of Woman Voters in the news release below is a bit much.)

The Democratic-endorsed candidates are Hernan Illingworth, Jacqui Kelleher and Ken Moales, current members of the reconstituted BOE. The Republican candidates are husband/wife Wayne Hayes and Evelyn Hayes and ex Republican Registrar of Voters Joe Borges. The Connecticut Supreme Court ordered a special election after it invalidated state control of city schools. One of the four school board positions on the ballot is reserved for minority party representation. The elected board will be seated as soon as the September 4 results are certified by elections officials, per order of the Connecticut Supreme Court. See news release below followed by Excel Bridgeport’s response:

Two candidates endorsed by the Working Families Party in the September 4 Bridgeport Board of Education Special Election, have declined an invitation to participate in a Candidates Forum, due to the presence of Excel Bridgeport, Inc. as a co-sponsor of the event.

Barbara Pouchet and John Bagley said in a written statement, that their participation in the event, would “serve to legitimize an organization whose objective is to eliminate the right of Bridgeport’s parents, taxpayers and citizens to cast ballots for members of our Board of Education.

They termed Excel Bridgeport’s actions, “a standing affront to everyone who believes the government of, by and for the people.”

“The hostility of Excel to the Democratic process and the principles of self government is obvious, and cannot be denied.

“Those who organized Excel Bridgeport, specifically Meghan Lowney and Nate Snow, were key conspirators in the orchestrated cabal which led to the elimination of Bridgeport’s elected Board of Education in July 2011. E-mail exchanges document their behind-the-scenes scheming.

“During the court challenge filed in response to the illegal takeover, Excel submitted a legal brief which urged the Connecticut Supreme Court not to reinstate the elected Board. Fortunately, the Supreme Court declared the takeover illegal, in spite of Excel’s efforts.

“However, the court decision did not end Excel’s campaign to undermine democracy in Bridgeport. It has been visible and vocal in arguing for a change in the Bridgeport City Charter which would insure that September 4 is the last time that Bridgeport voters will have an opportunity to vote for members of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

“Our participation in this forum would be a betrayal of those of our fellow Bridgeport residents who opposed the illegal takeover which Excel helped to engineer and who continue to believe that we the people of Bridgeport are as capable as the voters of Trumbull, Fairfield and Westport of electing our Board of Education,” they said.

Bagley and Pouchet expressed disappointment, that the League of Women Voters had agreed to co-sponsor the event with Excel, and that Excel had agreed to pay one-half of the rental fee charged by the Burroughs Center.

“The League of Women Voters has a well-earned reputation for fairness and a passionate commitment to a free and open electoral process. We are therefore disappointed that the League has joined forces with an organization which seeks to restrict the exercise of democratic rights, and has exhibited disdain for the democratic rights of Bridgeport’s people.

“Even if the League did not so intend, its sponsorship of an event with Excel, will inevitably be seen as a tacit endorsement of Excel’s anti-democratic agenda.

“Would the League of Women Voters co-sponsor a discussion on racial tolerance with the Ku Klux Klan, if the Klan agreed to defray one half of the expenses? We would hope not,” the candidates stated.

“Because we revere the democratic process and reject the patronizing, plantation mentality of the out of town contributors to Excel’s deep pockets, we will not participate in the August 22, forum and urge other candidates who support an elected board of education to do likewise.

“We were taught, as students in the Bridgeport Public Schools, that we all live in a democracy here in Bridgeport. It is time for Excel, and its gold-coast millionaire backers, to learn that lesson,” they concluded.

Response from Maria Zambrano, Excel Bridgeport:

There is a crisis in our schools. Every morning, the vast majority of Bridgeport children wake up and go to schools that are not preparing them for success in college, career or life. Today at Bassick High School, only 5% of sophomores are on grade level in reading and math. Five percent! Even sadder is that 5% is actually an increase from last year when the number was barely 2%.

These statistics aren’t just numbers, though. They represent children’s lives–hundreds of children who will drop out of high school and turn to a life of crime or unemployment. And hundreds of children who will finish high school but graduate lacking the skills needed to thrive in college, succeed in the workplace or lead fulfilling lives. At Excel Bridgeport, we firmly believe that this reality–one that too many Bridgeport children and families face–is simply unacceptable. Our kids need better and deserve better.

Excel Bridgeport is supportive of efforts that put the best interests of students first. We are committed to engaging parents and community members on all issues related to the improvement of our public schools. This BOE candidate’s forum on August 22 is being co-hosted by Excel Bridgeport and The League of Women Voters to provide Bridgeport voters and community members an opportunity to hear directly from all Board of Education candidates before the September 4th election. All BOE candidates were invited and encouraged to attend.

Given the crisis in schools, the goal of this forum is to learn directly from candidates about what their ideas are for improving the public schools and providing Bridgeport children with a chance at a high-quality education. The reality in our schools is too dire to tolerate losing focus on what truly matters: the education of our children.



  1. Lennie, was that forum tonight the 15th, or is it going to be August 22nd?

    I for one am disappointed some of the candidates declined the invitation. To the unenlightened, their message reads like inside baseball. Show up and explain why you want to be a candidate. The League will make sure the questions are fair and the timekeepers will keep order. Maybe the public television channel will televise and tape it so, gee whiz, folks could watch and learn.

    This September 4th election is important because if the charter revision proposal is defeated on the November ballot (I am voting NO on the question), then the folkswhoare elected on September 4th are going to serve for several years.

    I hope the candidate’s forum wasn’t tonight because I wanted to go, listen and learn before I vote.

  2. I really think you need to be there to speak your piece. Excel is a latecomer with its own agenda that needs exposure because it includes keeping all people, all races, all voting ages and of all financial condition from voting on BOE members, educational policy makers, educational community leaders who can and will be accountable to the whole community, not just a handful and not to a Mayor who on one hand says he is accountable (have you noticed this statement does not ring true?) and now he appoints a 28 year old to be in his “wunderkind” cabinet for the wonderful sum of $102,000? Where did that subject hit the City Council in budget hearings last year? Where is that Adam Wood “line item,” please? After all, we do not post numbers of authorized, active or vacant employee positions with our line items at this time, so does Adam know but doesn’t feel it is necessary to tell the taxpayers?
    Opportunities to debate, discuss and dialogue with facts (as well as opinions) are precious in this City. I hope all candidates will be there. I have respect for the League system of public discussions and am happy they assist us in Bridgeport with their efforts. If Ms. Pouchet and Mr. Bagley have info the voting public needs to know, provide a handout that evening, create a YouTube presentation, and get the word out. If you believe in the ultimate and lasting power of truth told sincerely, repeatedly, one on one or to a group, your work must take up that preaching and teaching when people will listen. And some parts of this community are starting to listen. Obviously we need more messengers. Time will tell.

  3. *** Regardless of WFP’s disapproval of Excel Bpt and their stand on a Mayor-appointed BOE, it seems a democratic forum by the “league of women voters” to hear the platforms of the running candidates is far from legitimizing any anti-voter sentiments on Excel’s part. On the contrary WFP should participate in order to inform and gain more media and voter interest on their BOE stand. The loud squeaky wheel usually gets the oil or in this case the votes if enough attention is given to the cause, date, place and time! It’s time to talk facts and inform the public on WFP’s position concerning the BOE instead of the good guys vs the bad guys political approach. *** EDUCATE THE VOTERS! ***

  4. JML and Mojo, I agree. They will doom their candidacies if they do not step up and get their message out. Go into the belly of the beast and rip its heart out.

  5. I agree they should attend. ALL candidates should present their plans and ideas in a public forum. This way they can be challenged, etc. I’m sure WFP is working hard on door-to-door campaigning–but I think open public events are necessary. WFP supporters and members (Judge Lopez, returning board members, etc.) have made their voices heard through press releases, letters/opinion pieces to the Post, etc. with all of their dislikes and shouts of tyranny. I would like to also see them give their voice to what positive change and ideas they will bring if elected (and in the case of Sauda and Maria–when they return). No one wants yes men–that has been the problem for years–but we do need members with differing opinions who can resolve conflict and not get bogged down in revolving arguments. I fear whichever side “wins” the majority, it’s just going to push the board back to the old bickering ways of the past. NONE of us should stand for that again regardless of who we support.

  6. And this is why PRIDE is one of the seven deadly sins. Boycotts work when the greater good is SERVED, they are inappropriate when the greater good is ignored in favor of subjective perception. They need to take the high road and go to this forum and continue to outclass Excel in every way they are given an opportunity to. And the Ku Klux Klan analogy? That’s just bad form.

  7. KKK? Over the top. Among the Irish we would call such a tactic pulling the (English) lion’s tail. The trouble is some of those Working Family folks believe their own baloney. Which ain’t going nowhere long term.

    Excel can be reasonably looked at as a mayoral tool no matter how high minded their stated purpose.

    Zena, I think, said it shortest and best. I hope all participate.

    Warning to League: I know education has historically been a prime issue. I have no doubt you are sincere. But you just have to be arms length from these Bridgeport guys.

    The best League debate moderator I ever saw in Bridgeport was a bemused Greenfield Hill club-type in an expensive, plaid maxi-skirt looking over Bridgeport citizens in full voice (i.e. near riot) at a debate. She exhaled smoke from a Virginia Slims cigarette into a microphone announcing: “All right everybody, sit down and SHADDUP!”

    They sat down. They shut up. They trusted her. It was respect earned for what the League can do.

  8. Why do you think the mayor should not be allowed to appoint BoE commissioners?

    He appoints commissioners for the housing authority, the WPCA, police commissioners, etc. … Seeing how completely inept as past boards have been, to me it makes sense we take a new approach.

    If that proposal gets voted down and popular vote will elect to the BoE, then any candidate refusing to participate in the public forum will find their chances greatly diminished along with their credibility.

  9. How can The League Of Women’s Voter have any “respect” when they are partners in the debate with one of those who will be in the debate? They should have said no to Excel.

  10. Note to League of Women Voters:

    See above comment.

    Consider I heard something like this from several people when I was in town for two days to help cover the primary for this webzine.

    Multiply Ron’s comments by X that you think of as worst case. Just dream of best case. Conclusion: get rid of Excel as sponsor. They are a partisan issue.

    Try not to think like f#$@ing liberals from Westport.

  11. Having an open discussion about the pro’s and con’s of an elected versus appointed BOE is good–having a proponent of one position co-sponsoring a forum presenting the candidates running–is bad form but not diminishing the opportunity for these candidates to present themselves and present why they think an elected BOE is the right thing–so if anything their excluding themselves from the forum supports the very dysfunction that is being used to support an appointed BOE–no cooperation among the parties so nothing gets done–similar to Republicans in Washington.

  12. Is there anything with Vallas that is transparent? The BOE just recently made new appointments for principals. One is Brett Gustafson. According to Vallas, he didn’t even know Gustafson’s mother has been significantly involved in education-related foundations in Bridgeport until after Gustafson had been hired.
    It turns out the new principal’s mother was not only a Director of the very Foundation that is paying part of Vallas’ salary, but she is also a Lifetime Trustee of the Bridgeport Public Education Foundation Fund, the foundation Vallas was appointed to earlier this year.
    It was only five months ago the state-appointed Board of Education asked the Fairfield County Community Foundation to donate $315,250 (and the Charter Oak Foundation to donated $75,000) to “pay for Vallas’ services, as well as for consultants he has brought in since January to assess the school system, seal a multimillion-dollar budget gap budget and create a five-year plan to improve the district.”
    It’s not clear if the Board understood, back then, that Vallas’ new team would actually cost the City closer to a million dollars, but at the time, the chairman of the illegal Board, Robert Trefry, bragged that more than $400,000 had already been raised and put into the Bridgeport Education Reform Fund, a program within the Fairfield County Community Foundation.
    Since many of the donors to the new Bridgeport Education Reform Fund wanted to remain anonymous, it is certainly possible that Vallas, the Board Chairman and the Board members really didn’t know if the mother of Curiale’s new principal was or was not a donor to the Fund.
    But it would be significantly harder for all of them to claim they didn’t know she had been a member of the Fairfield County Community Foundation’s Board of Directors or a Trustee of the Bridgeport Public Education Foundation.
    In any case, Curiale’s new principal may very well have been the best candidate for the job and the public comments about his work in New York City seem quite positive, but he certainly should have revealed (or Team Vallas should have known) his connections might be perceived as an appearance of a conflict of interest.
    What is certain is the overall lack of transparency, once again, clouds what is taking place in Bridgeport’s public schools.

    1. Vallas knows no such term as conflict of interest.
      He is sucking down cash for his consulting firm from several different school systems all in the name of corporate greed.
      File a complaint with the Ethics Commission and at least get a good laugh out of the situation.

      1. Here is what we know about Vallas and his cash-sucking habits!
        Paul Vallas has a $229,000 a year job to “turn around” Bridgeport’s schools.

        Vallas pushed through more than a dozen no-bid contracts, totaling about a million dollars a year, to bring in his team, including a number of people who actually worked for his private consulting company, “The Vallas Group.” (That doesn’t even count the $12 million in no-bid contracts for various computer software some of which was supposed to be ready but isn’t).

        Paul Vallas, Superintendent of Schools
        Dr. Sandra Kase, Chief Administrative Officer
            $900 Per Day $220,000+
        Marlene Siegel, Chief Financial Officer
            $800 Per Day $197,000+
        Don Kennedy, Chief Operating Officer
            $900 Per Day $220,000+
        Don Cochran, Executive Dir. Human Resources
        Shively Willingham, Special Assistant to the Superintendent
            $500 Per Day $136,000+
        Marcel Kshensky, Grievance Officer
            (50 days) $500 Per Day $25,000
        Lawrence Block, Mentor/Professional Development
            (90 days) $750 Per Day $67,500
        Maria DiMarco, Mentor/Professional Development
            (90 days) $800 per Day $72,000
        Wendy Shapiro, Mentor/Professional Development
            (90 days) $700 Per Day $63,000
        Anne Gargan, Mentor/Professional Development
            (90 days) $800 Per Day $72,000
        Edvige Mancuso, Mentor/Professional Development
            (90 days) $800 Per Day $72,000
        Ozborne Wright, Mentor/Professional Development
            (30 days) $500 Per Day $15,000
        Wendy Gussack, Curriculum Development
            (20 days) $600 Per Day $10,000
        Cozette Buckney, Labor Issues, Review and Follow up on all grievances
            (13 days) $850 + $350 Travel Allowance Per Day $13,650

        The Vallas Group had signed a three-year; $1 million contract to help low-performing schools in his home state of Illinois.

        The Vallas Group and Cambium Learning Group, a national, for profit company, were joining forces to market the “Vallas Turnaround System” to states, cities and schools around the country.

        On July 24, 2012, the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners voted to enter into a contract with Paul Vallas and VOYAGER Learning, (a subsidiary of Cambium Education, Inc.), to turn around fifteen Indianapolis schools. The price tag of which is $6 million a year for three years, the total amount not to exceed $18.1 million.

        1. Wth,
          For years the complaint in Bridgeport was there was no good financial information coming out of the learning/education establishment in Bridgeport … not from the BOE … not from the school administration … and not necessarily from the City itself.

          You may recognize I have been talking about OATs (Open, Accountable, Transparent process) in City governance for some time. For you to have the numbers you have reported the Vallas administration must be practicing some form of Open or Transparent, right? And that is good for the public too, right? So then we have some work to do, and that is to contrast and compare, perhaps to what was done before (but where are the records), or what was budgeted and projected in last year’s budget, or to what was expressed in any Vallas documentation. But just to repeat salary info, for example, is of no value other than to see that it is available, AND THAT IS NEWS, right? So let’s help the City Council learn more about ‘fiscal analysis’ and show them how it is done. I am waiting for August 31 to come and see how the Education and City numbers work out for the past year. By that time we shall also be closer to seeing how the 2012-13 projections of revenues and expenses are varying. Time will tell.

  13. I am confused.
    Excel Bridgeport has publicly proclaimed they are opposed to an elected BOE. So why do they feel they should co-sponsor a debate as to which candidates are most qualified?
    Forget all the talk of plantations and KKK, this makes no sense whatsoever.
    No self-respecting anarchist is going down to the Democratic Convention in South Carolina to protest against any given candidate, they are protesting against the institution.
    Excel Bridgeport doesn’t believe an elected BOE works. So why would they care who sits on the board, they are convinced whoever it is it will not work.
    This smells of a setup and you can use whatever language you’d care to. That is why the two WFP candidates don’t want anything to do with this and I don’t blame them.

  14. And talk about demagogic drivel!
    Listen to what the Excel Bridgeport peeps are saying. “We are committed to engaging parents and community members on all issues related to the improvement of our public schools.” What they are not saying is we do not trust them enough to actually empower them as elected BOE members.
    We [Excel Bridgeport] will listen and then we will decide. But we will act as if you played a role in the process. To quote Andy Fardy, “Utter BS!”

  15. More demagogic drivel from Excel Bpt.
    “There is a crisis in our schools!!!”
    “Hundreds of children who will drop out of high school and turn to a life of crime or unemployment.”
    “Hundreds of children who will finish high school but graduate lacking the skills needed to thrive in college, succeed in the workplace or lead fulfilling lives.”
    All but for an elected Board Of Education instead of an appointed one.
    The biggest joke of all is these Excel Bridgeporters (even thought they are not from Bridgeport) don’t understand it is the same Democratic Town Committee that nominates and elects a super majority on the BOE that nominates and elects the mayor who they want to appoint the BOE.
    Who is really the uneducated ones in this debate?

  16. I wonder why a group of people largely from out of town are fighting to control the Bridgeport Education system. Please don’t tell me they care about the kids, if that were the case where have they been all these years?
    Bridgeport’s problems come mainly from out of towners who come to out city and then tell us what’s good for us. Look at the BOE hires made by Vallas, out of towners. You have the BRBC running a fund raiser for the three nominated candidates.
    We have a Democratic town committee that keeps nominating stooges to sit on the BOE, just look at the three people they are running.
    Bridgeport does not need a bunch of out of towners telling us how to run this city. There is enough talent here to do that.
    We have the stooges in Hartford changing district lines so Ed Gomes loses a large percentage of his supporters and the freaking cowards did it while he was in the hospital. You can thank Malloy and the Finch administration for that.
    Enough is enough, I want my city back and I want all the damned out of towners to stay where they live.

    1. You want to know how low Finch and Wood can stoop, Andy? They tried to terminate a 30-year city employee just weeks before she was scheduled for a kidney transplant. They made her so sick the transplant almost had to be postponed. That’s how low they can go. They are the devil himself.

      1. *** Andy’s been saved after stepping out of the darkness and into the light! If someday you get the boot (anna) from the machine, you too may see the light, even after so many years in darkness, no? Good/Evil, Black/White, Big/Small, Smart/Stupid, Life/Death, Day/Night; two sides to living, Rich/Poor. *** Live and Learn ***

      2. anna,
        Getting older means you have observed history in the making. The history you have observed over the past “100 years” is stooges for the most part populate the Democratic Town Committee, right? But is there room in your worldview to make room for a person who steps out of “stoogedom,” has a Bridgeport baptism by attending what passes for fiscal checks and balances in the City Council as a founder of Budget Oversight Bridgeport, and even retires his OIB alias ‘town committee?’ There is more than one person writing on OIB who has left “stoogedom” and/or service on the City Council and sees the landscape in a different way today. Perhaps it’s maturation, perhaps you can term it education through lifetime learning, maybe it’s just lucky. But willingness to ask questions and follow them through to a variety of answers, even those that conflict with your initial opinion is a sign of growth, not drinking a different Kool-Aid. And really listening and opening yourself to the thoughtful statements of others who may seem to be in disagreement with you is a step towards diplomacy and statesmanlike activity. Behavior of this type runs counter to FOLLOW THE LEADER and that is the only game permitted in this town. And ‘fear the leader’ practices keep it a perilous game. Sorry you are ‘blechful’ at the moment. Time will tell.

  17. *** If I were one of the WFP candidates I would state our platform and reasons why, and also make a comparison of the two views. Ending up by shedding lite on the fact Excel Bpt not only was one of the co-sponsors that night but also has candidates they’re supporting in the election. Yet even though WFP felt this was a conflict of political interest, they believe in the democratic process and still participated in the democratic debate! *** HOOK, LINE AND SINKER! ***

  18. Brick,
    The mayor appoints several commissioners but they are on staggered terms. For most commissions it takes two terms before the mayor controls a commission with his or her appointees. In the case of the BOE there aren’t staggered terms. They come in with the mayor. They all leave with the mayor. So think about it. A mayor serves one term; makes all the appointments to the BOE; then either doesn’t run or loses the next election. The new mayor appoints all new BOE commissioners. No continuity. Just upheaval. Not good for the kids. A blended board is the best option; some elected; majority appointed so mayor has control but a quorum to vote on something would need at least one elected member. Continuity preserved for the long term. Best for the kids.

  19. I am attending the Aug 22nd candidates forum so I can listen and make an informed vote on Sept 4th. Then on November I am voting NO on the charter revision proposal. I don’t think a fully appointed BOE board is in the best interests of the kids.

    1. Countdown–what you say makes sense. So my question for WFP supporters is this–When do we hear their ideas/plans/credentials for office? And who challenges those items? Or are they exempt because they are “anything but the machine?” They are outspoken against Finch, Appointed board, Excel, etc., but as a voter I would want to hear real plans.

  20. Grin,
    Excellent point. Mayors are notorious for not filling appointments to the hundreds of board and commission slots. So appointees in expired terms are sitting there waiting to be reappointed and afraid to vote their beliefs for fear they will not get reappointed. So if the BOE is made up totally of appointed positions with terms that are the same as the mayoral term the mayor could delay appointment or not appoint depending on the wind. Having that background credentialing committee that turned into an advisory committee in the final version is also a serious flaw. I am voting NO on the proposed charter language so this Sept 4th election is important. Very important.


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