Charter School Advocate Now Leads School Board

From July 2019, Jessica Martinez with fellow school board member Albert Benejan.

Charter school advocate Jessica Martinez Monday night was named chair of the Board of Education, the eighth leader of the policy-setting body the past six years, replacing John Weldon who had served in that capacity for two years. Weldon, without the votes for another term, placed her name into nomination. The vote was 7 to 2.

Martinez, in addition to herself, was backed by Weldon, Chris Taylor, Joseph Lombard, Albert Benejan, Sybil Allen and Hernan Illingsworth. The other votes were for Joe Sokolovic who nominated himself. He was supported by newcomer Bobbi Brown.

Mayor Joe Ganim chaired the meeting to select a new school board chair.

Martinez’s ardency for charter schools is antithetical to the views of recently departed board member Maria Pereira who asserts they drain resources from local districts while serving as tax shelters for corporate greed. Charters receive public money but operate independently of traditional municipal districts. Pereira is now a member of the City Council.

Martinez, who had served as vice chair of the school board, is an independent state lobbyist for 50 CAN, a national school choice organization.

From an OIB interview early this year, Martinez’s passion is school choice “fighting for all children to experience the same educational exposure” be it magnet, charter or vocational schools. “As a parent I want to utilize my choice for my child,” a mantra she’s sharing with members of the state legislature.

She embraces “my child, my choice“, a national education advocacy group declaring “funding should follow children from one public school to another, regardless of whether that school is a traditional public school, a magnet school, or a public charter school.”

Martinez supports money-follows-the-child legislation that does not exist in Connecticut, essentially a student who attends a charter school in Bridgeport would receive state education funds redirected from the local school district.

Opponents to charters argue they suck financial resources from traditional schools. Bridgeport with six has the most charter schools among Connecticut’s 23.

Half of Bridgeport’s charter schools have been placed on probation by the state Board of Education citing poor academic performance, excessive expulsion rates and exorbitant teacher turnover.

Still, Martinez argues, school choice is what’s best for parents and students. As an elected school board member Martinez says education access “does not do justice for the children.”

Late last year Martinez was involved in a confrontation with her boyfriend that led to her January 2019 arrest for felony assault and misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

In July, with State Senator Dennis Bradley providing her legal counsel, Martinez entered a guilty plea to reduced misdemeanor charges that also included violating the conditions of her prior release in a domestic violence case. Martinez’s plea also included agreeing to a 20-week domestic violence program. Bradley added once she completes the program her record relating to those charges will be cleared.



  1. By
    Valerie Strauss
    The shifting landscape
    Given disappointing academic results, endemic corruption, and growing segregation, why does anyone interested in equal and excellent education for all still support vouchers and charter schools? One reason is money. Entrepreneurs recognized early on that market-based ed-reforms could be a source of substantial profits. Private operators quickly found ways to tap into the vast public resources — now more than $600 billion a year — spent on K-12 education.
    Equally important, ideology trumps evidence for free-market boosters, and ed reformers have developed a culture of true-believers. In January, 2018, a government-solicited audit revealed that school officials in Washington, D.C.. had knowingly allowed 34 percent of high school seniors to graduate in 2017 without fulfilling all requirements. The news triggered an uproar because reformers, private funders, and the media had been touting Washington D.C. — with its voucher program and high penetration rate of charters — as education reform’s great success story.
    Reflecting on the gulf between triumphalism and facts, Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and one of the few reformers who confront problems publicly, wrote:
    [S]o many in the world of school reform tend to clamber aboard the bandwagon of the moment while parking their skepticism.…”[R]eformers” have tended to circle their wagons, fueling a “with-us-or-against-us” dynamic. That leaves little ground for friends to offer tough-minded public appraisal without being labeled an enemy of the movement…. [I]t’s time for the reformers, funders, and pundits to ask ourselves how we’ve contributed to a culture that’s heavy on cheerleading and light on skepticism—and how to find a better balance going forward.
    In another case of ideology über alles, pro-reform members of Congress went so far as to ban rigorous evaluation of Washington D.C.’s voucher program. In spring 2017, the Institute of Education Sciences, which is the independent research arm of the U.S. Education Department, released a study showing that on math standardized tests, D.C. students who used vouchers to attend private schools fell behind their peers who remained in public schools. The research was a randomized controlled trial considered the “gold standard” experimental design. A week later, the Republican-led Congress approved a budget that included “a prohibition on the use of the experimental design evaluation method in any future federally funded studies of the D.C. voucher program.”
    Given the overall record of charter schools, support in the general public and among minorities has been slipping. According to the most recent survey conducted by the pro-reform journal Education Next, support among all respondents dropped from 51 percent to 39 percent from 2016 to 2017. Among African Americans, support  for charter schools dropped from 46 percent to 37 percent; among Hispanics, from 44 percent to 39 percent.
    Education reformers also suffered a major defeat when they tried to increase the number of charter schools in Massachusetts using a ballot initiative. The state has the strongest oversight system in the country and a relatively small number of charters. The ballot initiative drew national attention because of the outsized campaign spending — $25 million on the “yes” side, $17 million on the “no” side. On November 8, 2016, voters rejected the charter increase by an overwhelming margin, 62 percent to 38 percent.
    Many African-American advocacy organizations have taken a stand against market-based reforms. In a 2014 resolution, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) pledged to “continue to advocate against any state or Federal legislation which commits or diverts public funding, allows tax breaks, or establishes preferential advantages to for-profit, private and/or charter schools.”
    The 2016 NAACP national convention passed a resolution supporting “a moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” Shortly after the NAACP vote, the Movement for Black Lives — a network of more than 50 organizations representing African Americans— released a platform that included a moratorium on new charter schools. In 2017, the largest and best known African American ed-reform organization — the Black Alliance for Educational Options — closed down after it had “struggled to remain financially viable and relevant over the last several years.”
    Unfortunately, not all Americans know enough about market-based ed-reform to evaluate it. Despite two decades of heated public debate, many do not understand how charter schools and vouchers are funded. According to a 2017 poll by the independent research company SSRS, a little more than half of Americans supported charter schools until they learned that the funding is taken from district public schools. Then support plummeted to 30 percent.
    For participants in the 2017 Education Next survey, support for vouchers hinged on whether the survey questions contained the phrase “wider choice” or “use government funds.” A proposal to “give all families with children in public schools a wider choice, by allowing them to enroll their children in private schools instead, with government helping to pay the tuition” received 45 percent support. But a proposal to “use government funds to pay the tuition of all students who choose to attend private schools” received only 27 percent support. Neither question contained the word “voucher.”
    It turns out that when Americans know that market-based reforms drain funds from public schools, most oppose the policies. The success of the ed-reform movement so far has depended on their not knowing.
    The survival of public education in the United States is a political choice. Opposition to market-based reform is growing stronger, but it needs to be transformed quickly into electoral activism. Privatizers now control the Trump administration, Congress, and most state governments.
    Running for president, Donald Trump promised sweeping privatization policies for K-12 education, but so far his program has stalled in Congress. Some Republicans object to expanding federal influence and squelched the administration’s proposals in the 2018 budget.
    Secretary of Education Betsy Devos has not been a strong asset. She quickly made herself the most publicly reviled member of Trump’s controversial cabinet with her combined ignorance of and scorn for public education. But effective power over public education still belongs to the state governments. As of April 2018, Republicans held a near-record 34 governorships and 32 state legislatures; they continue to approve new voucher programs and more charters.
    Draining resources from public schools has already undermined districts around the country, especially those serving low-income and minority students. Time is short for rescuing and improving public education. Destroying it will not require privatizing the entire system or anything near that. We are watching death by a thousand cuts.

    1. We have a Charter School Lobbyist with an abysmal two year attendance record that was arrested for three separate incidents in less than a year which included felony assault,child endangerment, failure to adhere to a protective order, and DMV violations, which required a $50,000 Bond, serving as Chair of the most important Board in the largest City in CT.

      Her significant other, who was the individual involved in all three incidents and have mutual restraining/protective orders against each other, attended with her tonight.

      This was the basis of one of the previous arrests, failure to adhere to their mutual protective/restraining orders.

      Hernan Illingworth has still failed to provide his required proof of residency form to the Town Clerk as required by City Ordinance.

      He is utilizing a P.O. Box in Fairfield in judicial proceedings.

      I am watching Bobbi Brown closely and have yet to form an opinion. She certainly did demonstrate some independence tonight by voting for Sokolovic for Chair.

      Let’s see if she will be loyal to students or Dr. Ford.

    2. Jim,

      An excellent post!

      Your neighbor John Weldon was humiliated tonight.

      He had a prepared statement highlighting what a wonderful and accomplished Chair he had been, however there are those who have called him a dictator. After two years of his dictorial leadership he felt Jessica Martinez was worthy of being Chair, therefore he was nominating her.

      That’s called “I don’t have the votes so I am going to do everything in my power to save face.”

      It was absolutely priceless.

      1. I would like to point out one fact In the missive that’s Jim Fox posted. In 2016,Massachusetts had a highly publicized political battle over whether to expand charter school. The voters of Massachusetts were inundated with information and voted overwhelmingly by 62% to 38% to stop expansion of charter schools. Once voters get the real facts about charter schools they can see beyond smoke and mirrors and will see that charter schools are not what people think that they are.

  2. Death by a thousand cuts? It’ll be a bloodletting. Nothing like letting the fox in the henhouse. At least she’s barely literate unlike many of the other members. Can you imagine working in education your whole life, earning a Masters degree, then a PhD, and being given directives by one who can’t even spell directive much less use it in a complete, coherent sentence? This is going to be good; high comedy. It’ll be like watching a science experiment on rot and decay.

  3. May I please ask everyone to pray for our 20,100 deserving public school students and 2,700 dedicated staff members.

    Jessica Martinez has repeatedly told me “Ganim is not my Mayor.” She would repeatedly state she supported Mayor Finch.

    If you recall, she was employed by the now defunct Ex$cell Bridgeport. During the Charter Referendum where Mayor Finch was trying to take residents right to vote for their school board members, Ex$ell Bridgeport spent $100,000 to get the measure passed.

    Jessica Martinez created a spin-off organization called “Parents for Progress” which was supporting stripping parents’ right to vote for their school board members in 2013.

    She then ran for the Board of Education asking those very same people to vote for her. Can you see the pure hypocrisy?

    Hernan Illingworth is a 134th DTC member and Jessica Martinez is a 137th DTC member. Both voted to endorse Mayor Ganim for another four year term in July.

    Although they both knew how Joe Ganim has decimated our public schools and caused the Board to make $50,000,000 in devastating cuts, they voted to endorse him.

    No school board member that truly cares about the academic, social and emotional well being of our children could vote to endorse Ganim for another four year term

    Politics above innocent children is the name of the game in Bridgeport.

    I always tell people don’t listen to what politicians say, watch what they do.

    Please stop voting for ANY endorsed Democrat or Republican in Bridgeport. It is critical to ousting these horrible people.

  4. On a humorous note Albert “Fluffy” Benejan is sitting in my previous spot.

    Well, he is certainly capable of filling my seat from a physical standpoint, however this completely illiterate individual will NEVER fill my seat intelligently, articulately, knowledgeably, parliamentarily or intellectually.

    Although both Jessica Martinez and Hernan Illingworth had already both been nominated and seconded separately, not once but twice he raised his hand to enter their names into nomination again.

    We were all chuckling in the audience.

    They couldn’t even keep count of 9 votes. Although Hernan beat Weldon by 5 to 4 for Vice-Chair, Illingworth and other board members announced Weldon won Vice-Chair.

    Several of those in the audience had to call out that Illingworth won and the ballots had to be read aloud again.

    It was a comedy of errors except our poor children are the punchline

  5. I only come to defend to my compadres, illiterate and barely illiterate. Councilwoman Maria, there is nothing humorous about fat or intellectually shaming someone. Councilwoman, you may be intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable and well versed in parliamentary procedures but your decorum and decency are lacking. Einstein had said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will Live its whole life believing that It is stupid” Besides an intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable, and a well versed in parliamentary procedures woman had said, “being on the BOE has nothing to do with helping the children. It’s about controlling the 200 plus million dollar budget. Either that woman was a “lion” or she only runs for the BOE to control of the money. Which is it?

    Ben, I though resigned because of the leadership of Weldon? Let’s be honest. You resigned because you would have lost in the election. You took the cowardly way out to save face and quitted. Not sure if Martinez will make a strong leader but a quitter never will..

    P.S Councilwoman Maria, I wouldn’t laugh at how many times “fluffy” vote he beat you citywide. You are an intelligent person, Why do you think “fluffy” beat you at the voting polls? A completely illiterate individual who will NEVER be able to fill your seat intelligently, articulately, knowledgeably, parliamentarily or intellectually. Kicked your ass to get at the polls. That’s humorous. 🙂
    Know what else is humorous Councilwoman your judgment. Jessica Martinez may have repeatedly told me “Ganim is not my Mayor.” She would repeatedly state she supported Mayor Finch. You repeatedly told everybody you supported Ganim. You know that person who decimated our public schools and caused the Board to make $50,000,000 in devastating cuts. Councilwoman Maria, is this Board takeover legal? You are well versed in parliamentary procedures. 🙂

    In the words of Nixon, Burn the Tapes.

  6. Ben,

    Please do not respond to Robert Teixeira under any circumstances.

    He is a “moron and always has been.”

    Ask Harvey Weintraub. He will confirm it. 🙂

    1. Who Harvey Weintraub, Councilwoman? Are you able to respond to Councilwoman? 🙂 I would like to know is being on the BOE about the children or controlling the 200 plus budget. These are your words mot mine. 🙂 You weren’t “lion” to us where you. 🙂
      Burn the tapes. 🙂

      P.S Councilwoman. I’m a catholic, not a Mormon. You know, the virgin birth, walking on water, Gold plates, that’s just Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum. 🙂

  7. Well, well, welll this can’t be a surprise to Maria or anyone else that Mayor Ganim would see that his puppet would be installed as president of the BBOE because that’s what he does.

    Is the saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend or the enemy of my enemy is my enemy too, just like the last mayoral election proved. Quit your DAMN complaining, you got what you voted for now deal with that, for four more years anyway. I know what you’re thinking let it go the election is over, but I’m the ghost of elections past and will constantly remind you mindless fools everytime you start to complain about the policies of Mayor Ganim and Mario! THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS MY FRIEND!

    1. Rumor Mill:
      The ghost of Machiavelli reminds Donald Day that Bridgeport is the best thing that ever happened to him. Donald Day’s self-proclaimed enemy robosigns money to him every month, making Donald Day part of the American made, soviet-style COMMAND ECONOMY. The Mayor honors your contract-it’s part of his job.
      Who’s complaining now?

    2. Don, Maria has the nerve to say, “Jessica Martinez has repeatedly told me “Ganim is not my Mayor.” She would repeatedly state she supported Mayor Finch,” well, who the hell did Maria support for mayor during the recent Democrat primary? Maria got what she wanted, four more years of Joe Ganim and Mario Testa.

      Don, Jimfox post an article by Valerie Strauss concerning the ills of vouchers and charter schools, well, vouchers and charter schools would be big improvement over what the Bridgeport school students got from the BBOE especially during the time that Maria was on the BBOE. Can anybody tell what the BBOE and Maria Pereira has done to elevate the education of students of color?

  8. Councilwoman, please respond you claim others are cowardice. You said when you first ran for the board you thought you were for the kids, but realize it was about controlling the 200 plus budget. If that is true was your second run was have control of the budget. Which is it? In any event, your credibility will be “fluffy”. 🙂 Burn the tapes. 🙂

    P.S. Councilwoman is there a reason you gave Ben a “directive” to no response to the charge of quitting. What an example to set for the kids. If things get hard, quit, no matter who you are fighting for, the betterment of the student, parent, staff. Ben, it’s hard to imagine working in education your whole life, earning a Master’s degree, then a Ph.D. and being given directives by one who can’t even spell directive much less use it in a complete, coherent sentence? but can you tell me who gave you the directive to quit? i know Councilwoman Maria gave you directive to not respond. Where they able to at least use it in a complete and coherent sentence for you?

    What is far from humorous is intellects belittling those who are less intelligent, like the rich laughing at the poor. the strong bullying the weak. What is sad, however, kids being used for one’s own selfish gains. Let’s stop lying and hiding, you didn’t run because you were going to lose in the democratic process.

    #bloodlettinghighcomedywatchingascienceexperimentonrotanddecay. JS

  9. Paul, put the bottle down! Paul, you say nothing about me running into burning all the while putting my life on the line to save slugs like you. I did that for over 20 years so every dime I get in my pension I’ve earned, so just pay your taxes so that I can continue with my soviet-style COMMAND ECONOMY! No complaining here Paul, just a Happy Black man living his best life off of your tax dollars. Any questions? I’ll wait!

    1. Normally. I don’t respond to people who insult me first, but in your case, I will make an exception.
      Unlike you, I ran an outreach program for urban fires and when I discovered one I put it out myself. You are still live a legislatively-lucrative life under soviet-style command economy.conditions. What you’ve “earned” isn’t determined in the marketplace, it’s determined by what happens in the boardroom. You’ve proven it to me: if you live under ideal conditions, you can have an ideal life.
      Questions always indicate something unknown.
      Consequently, you’ll be waiting forever.

      1. Normally I don’t defend Ron and Day, but you are a Mormon. 🙂

        They still live a legislative-lucrative life defending the marketplace. Would you say the same to soldiers who retired and receive a pension of one the was hurt serving this country?

        Socialism without Capitalism leads to Communism, Capitalism without Socialism leads to Oligarchy.

        As Ben will attest too, democracy can be flawed. We just hope there are adults in the room while you and Day, Ron go at it.

          1. I don’t always defend Day but when I do I’m drunk. Lets talk circumvents and marketplace. Did slavery circumvent capitalism’s, fruit of one’s labor? You say Day circumvented the marketplace be fruit was determined by the body of legislative in a board room. How do you think the marketplace works by a Ghost? Is the Mormon Mitt Romney the same Romney who circumvented the marketplace and pass Universal Health Care as Governor?

            “Stupidity in the marketplace” an addiction to the consumer product that causes mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from the dependency on such products.?

            P.S. See when you just have a system that just cares for itself someone has to defend the rights of humanity. Let’s not forget the marketplace governed in the boardrooms of oligarchs.


  10. Maybe it’s time to re-visit the issue of the State of Connecticut taking over the Bridgeport Public School System. This notion of local control of the BPS has been a complete failure. There is an IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY in the BPS. The State should takeover the schools and return it gradually to local power but when can that be? Who knows? As long as we have the present political structure in BPT(even if some of the people change) the school system will be raided for political patronage jobs. And let’s remember this The BPS needs a new Superintendent. Who in their right mind would want to be Superintendent based on the last few years and the following next years. THE BPS IS IN AN EMERGENCY.

  11. Chairperson Jessica Martinez, would you check into why the 8th grade class of Classical Studies Magnet School still don’t have a math teacher. They’ve just completed their first semester with less that what they deserve, a qualified math teacher! What they have is the Assistant to the ELA teacher which to my understanding is reading! These young children are getting ready to go to high school next year and at the very least they need a teacher that teaches math so that they are prepared for the next phase of their education.

    Is there any wonder that the children of Bridgeport are suffering academically when compared with children of other communities? Is there any wonder that the children of Bridgeport have such a high dropout because they can’t compete academically? Is there any wonder that the children of Bridgeport have such a hard time and far behind other students when they get to college? These children want a Math teacher and their educational future depends upon this. GIVE THE CHILDREN OF CLASSICAL STUDIES MAGNET SCHOOL A MATH TEACHER Chairman Jessica Martinez, that’s the very least that they deserve!


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