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Clergy To School Board: Enough Is Enough, Put Your Weapons Down

June 10th, 2014 · 71 Comments · Education, News and Events

Members of the Board of Education must “put their ‘weapons’ down and focus on finding common ground and pursue a course of solutions based on problem solving instead of finger pointing and hostile acts,” according to a letter signed by 12 city pastors. Jorge Cabrera, a community organizer for the education advocacy group Excel Bridgeport, has been meeting with various stakeholders in the city in an effort to gauge community input on education issues.

Cabrera says the pastors fear personality conflicts and various issues such as new charters schools versus traditional public schools have sucked oxygen from the larger goals of the district. He shared the letter signed by the clergy.

For nearly four years Bridgeport has been at the center of an intense battle for control of our public schools: We have experienced a board of education surrender their rights to govern our schools; an appointed board of education take over the school system and hire a new superintendent; an intense charter revision campaign that would have given the Mayor the authority to appoint the entire school board; division among our parents; the election of a new school board majority; raucous shouting matches over the approval of two new charter schools and the building of a new Harding High School. These intense battles for control of our public schools has caused more division in our community and done little to advance the educational dreams of the tens of thousands of students enrolled in our 37 schools and their families.

Enough is enough!

As clergy collectively representing thousands of people in our respective churches we call on all the parties involved (directly or indirectly) to put their “weapons” down and focus on finding common ground and pursue a course of solutions based on problem solving instead of finger pointing and hostile acts. Anything less, has the tendency to “poison” the public conversation regarding our schools and force participants to choose “sides.” There is only one side we want to be on: the side of common sense.

We fully realize that there are serious and significant differences of opinion on what to do to reform our public schools. Some believe the achievement gap in our school system is primarily the product of poorly funded schools (i.e., the state’s broken education cost sharing formula, the city’s failure to fund the minimum budget requirement). Still others believe the solutions can be found in expanding charter schools, tying teacher pay to performance, closing “failing” schools or bringing in a “rock star” education leader. Clearly, there is plenty of room for disagreement.

Instead of focusing on the areas where we disagree we recommend that the various parties focus on things they can agree on and work on implementing those elements effectively. Several that come to mind are access to high quality, universal pre-school in every single school in Bridgeport and the expansion of local and inter-district magnet schools. The data is clear on the efficacy of high quality, universal pre-school and magnet schools. They can have a positive impact on closing the achievement gap and reducing racial and economic isolation.

We believe that a more common sense approach to reforming our public schools needs to be comprehensive in nature and encompass the many variables that contribute to educating a child. Proper support and funding is important but so is holding educators, parents and elected officials accountable.

Further, we have a very diverse student population and “one size” does not fit all. We must customize our learning programs to meet the needs of each individual school and student and resist the temptation to adopt a “cookie cutter” approach. At the same time, if certain schools are doing a good job educating our children, be they charter, magnet or traditional public schools, we should not be shy about learning from them and adopting some of their practices to see if they work in other schools.

In sum, as clergy we can’t help but notice that many of our young people are growing up with very different values than we did during our formative years. In fact, they are growing up with values that harm them and the communities they live and grow in. That is why we need character education in our schools. Our young people need to learn the proven benefits of values such as; sacrifice, hard work, integrity, honesty, patience, respect and humility. A good education doesn’t just teach you how to think and get a job but how to live and have productive relationships. Character education can address this challenge.

The time has come in Bridgeport for us to work together toward common solutions that help kids learn and not look to score political points or exact revenge for past “wrongs.” As a community, we won’t always see “eye to eye” but we also don’t need to, nor should we, take a posture of overt hostility toward each other or overly personalize disagreements which then prohibit us from seeking common ground and working together.

Despite the past, we remain hopeful that all parties engaged in this noble effort to educate our children will look forward and find ways to work together toward common sense solutions.

Our prayer for our collective community is that God’s grace will equip all parties with the humility and common sense necessary to find solutions to one of our highest responsibilities … educating our children.

God Bless the City of Bridgeport.

Rev. Milagros Garcia, Iglesia Renacer, Inc.

Rev. Abraham Hernandez, Grace Community Church

Rev. Manuel Garcia, Iglesia Renacer, Inc.

Rev. Victor Gomez, Iglesia La Nueva Jeruselem (Church of the New Jerusalem)

Rev. Dr. Moises Mercedes, Prince of Peace Church

Bishop Hector Hernandez, Iglesia De Dios, Centro de Vida (Church of God, Center of Life)

Pastor Luis Burgos, Citywide Church

Pastora Yolanda Hernandez, Iglesia De Dios, Centro de Vida (Church of God, Center of Life)

Pastor Pedro Vazquez, Gospel Light Community Church

Pastor Doran Wright, Grace City Church

Bishop Richardo Griffith, Word of Life Ministries

Pastor Dimaris Perez, Christian Revival Church


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71 Comments so far ↓

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Again, what you have here is a hired gun (George Cabrera) who lives in Hamden CT and who doesn’t have any children attending the Bridgeport Public School system, stirring the pot. Everything mentioned on the first paragraph of the letter signed by the 12 apostles was initiated by a group of people and George Cabrera was and still is one of the hired guns by this anti-public school organization.
    The majority of the voters used “common sense” when they voted to protect their right of freedom of speech (voting is a form of this). A judge used common sense to study the language of the law and carefully listened to both sides of the argument and ruled the takeover illegal. Where were these pastors during all this time? What’s their connection to Reverend Kenneth Moales? Where is their concern regarding his past activities and conduct on the board?

  • Lifelong Bpt

    The letter is a summary of all that has taken place the last few years. The side these clergy chose was the community and students. They address the issues (at a high level). All they are asking is all parties find common ground and work together.
    Your response is indicative of the mindset they want the BOE and public to get out of, the combative, vindictive “look how bad the other side” is nature of this BOE/Public relationship.
    The students have not and will not benefit from that mindset of payback and score settling.

  • David Moore

    Jorge Cabrera is the community organizer for Excel Bridgeport and doesn’t live in the community he is attempting to organize. Not much else needs to be said about that. The only “religious leader”who signed this letter who has actually attended a BBOE Committee or Regular Board meeting this year is Bishop Ricardo Griffith. He is a Moales, McCullough and McCluster ally whose wife works for the charter school organization “managing” Dunbar School.
    There is a reason why we have separation of church and state in the constitution. This letter shows why we still need it. We should not be giving money to schools that are directly run by churches, EVER.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Thank you Lifelong for reading the letter and responding to its message. What Joel Gonzalez and David Moore have stated demonstrates how far we have descended into “team representation.” You are either on the “good team” or the other team, the “bad team.”

    Part of this has been the failure of check and balances in the City that I wrote about last week. We have very few forums where those who care, who are interested in being more broadly informed, and who will take the time for the benefit of the community (rather than a purely narrow and personal interest) to come together, listen to leaders on a variety of subjects, respectfully ask questions, listen to responses provided and share their own opinions. There are very few “facts” and measurables that accompany City governance that costs close to $700,0000,000 annually including local, State and Federal funds to indicate there is a broad benefit to the public. Leadership has not set out metrics or measurables other than the oft-quoted 17 square miles occupied by Bridgeport along with their plaint about what funds are not coming from the State.

    And folks who do speak up fail to disclose “conflicts of interest” they may be burdened with. Yes, George Cabrera may be employed as a community organizer and any number of people who work for the City are part of what seems like a monolithic enemy of political discourse in the marketplace. However over the past few years I have been able to respectfully share information, opinions and personal hopes with a number of people on OIB. Thank goodness there is another “estate” out there, separate from our governance operation, that can raise a dozen religious leaders to refocus on the obvious need for “humility and common sense” as we work to provide our youth with good tools for their future journey.

    Not all families can help their children escape to the suburbs as some do. Not all who wish to attend magnet schools are able to. And the requirements of charter schools are not right for other families. But the public frenzy of the past several years where one or more groups have vied for “control” has an opportunity to calm perhaps to a level where more folks can join the conversation, speaking at times and more often listening and learning. All parties have far to travel to approach any of our goals. Will “humility and common sense” help us get there? And will a little prayer and reflection hinder us? Time will tell.

  • David Moore

    On Excel Bridgeport, the most disreputable non-profit in Bridgeport if not Connecticut; please remember Nate Snow and Megan Lowney, who were both conspirators of the illegal takeover of the BBOE, sit on their Board. They are a front for the “ed reform” movement whose primary focus has nothing to do with children but everything to do with promoting charter schools and the privatization of public education. Excel Bridgeport is heavily funded by the Lone Pine Foundation which was founded by Steve Mandel. Steve Mandel is a hedge fund billionaire who lives in Greenwich. According to Forbes, he was ranked #872 in billionaire rankings in the entire world with an estimated personal wealth of $2.1 BILLION. Steve Mandel also sits on the National Board of Directors for Teach for America, another disreputable organization that recruits college graduates to teach in poor urban districts. These “teachers” only receive five weeks of training and are only required to make a two-year commitment to teach. 50% of these “teachers” leave teaching after the two-year stint and over 75% leave by year three. They utilize the experience as a resume booster and then leave to pursue lucrative jobs. In addition to founding the Lone Pine Foundation, Mandel also founded Megan Lowney’s current employer, the ZOOM Foundation.

    • BOE SPY

      I guess Dave’s answer to the posed question is ‘NO!’
      If you think Excel is shady, they’ve got nothing on the self-serving CEA. Read for yourself-serving-ness.

      These are the people who are in control of the BOE. Can anyone say ‘conflict of interest?’ These are the people who are apt to make the BEST choices for the STUDENTS? Let us not forget, if the schools were not so bad off for such a long time, none of this would be happening. Let the excuses fly but who made this mess in the first place?

      • Andrew C Fardy

        Just look at what we are hiring for principals and for superintendents of schools. It’s the age-old attempt at making everything equal.

  • David Moore

    Another interesting piece of information to contemplate is this letter is signed by Pastor Pedro Vasquez from Gospel Light Community. This is Jessica Martinez’s church and she is a paid “parent organizer” for Excel Bridgeport.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Anytime a group of the clergy get together to tell us what is wrong it generally highlights their failures. Here is an excerpt from Mr. Cabrera’s letter to OIB. “In fact, they are growing up with values that harm them and the communities they live and grow in. That is why we need character education in our schools. Our young people need to learn the proven benefits of values such as; sacrifice, hard work, integrity, honesty, patience, respect and humility.” These qualities should be taught at home and in places of worship. Blaming the lack of these qualities on the school system is baloney. Rev, tell it like it is, the parents are to damned lazy to teach their kids.
    Excel could care less about the kids in Bridgeport, what they care about is the hundreds of millions of dollars rolling into Bridgeport every year. To Excel and your followers, we the people of Bridgeport have spoken so take a walk.
    To the BOE especially the newer elected members, let’s start hearing from you people. Are you all mute or too afraid of the crowds that attend your meetings? If you are going to do nothing, resign.
    Mr. Cabrera, get a real job.

    • David Moore

      It is not even about millions rolling into Bridgeport or any other city with charter schools, it is about education corporations lining their pockets. In Tucson one of these charter schools was actually using tax dollars to give out prizes to parents who enrolled their kids, it was actually on the radio. Charter schools are about MONEY.

      • BOE SPY

        Or is it about teachers, administrators and, most of all unions, lining their pockets? Everything about education is about money. Dave’s biggest problem is WHO gets that money. The last thing the CEA is worried about is the students. How about this? If our students need a little more money to get a fair education, how about the teachers give back the 8% they just got? All the other city unions gave back or took layoffs for the last 3-4 years.

  • Tom White

    I cannot claim expertise on the topic of ‘education reform.’ My position on the problem in Bridgeport came about in 1992 when, like so many others who had worked for local banks, found themselves doing temporary work as we transitioned to different employment.

    I spent a short period as a substitute teacher in local school systems. My first day I substituted for a middle school grade in Bridgeport. The very next day I substituted the same grade in Trumbull.

    You can see where this is going.

    The homeroom in Bridgeport was 30 children. The emergency contact list showed only three of the children lived with two parents or guardians with the same name.

    The Trumbull homeroom consisted of 17 children. The emergency contact list showed that all but two children lived with two parents or guardians with the same name as them.

    The problem in Bridgeport, in my opinion, is social and moral. These self-proclaimed “clergy” people make some accurate observations, but they expect the board of education to resolve social and moral problems through the public education system.

    The school population in Bridgeport is not diverse. In the big picture it is typical of what urban centers have become. There are immigrant groups who, like those who have come before them, will move on to other communities where their moral values reflect those of American culture.

    The question, I fear, is whether the population of urban centers are capable of functioning in American society. The concentration of social welfare and housing programs has enabled a class of people that sees little desire for education.

    Not enough parents (or whoever is raising children) impart to their children the moral values and desire for knowledge that, in my opinion, enable public school systems to focus on education and not engage in arguments of so-called ‘reforms.’

    • BOE SPY

      Good observations. One thing, there are two groups. One is the working poor who, like those who have come before them, will move on to other communities where their moral values reflect those of American culture. This group is, usually, the good students. They have a two-parent household that values education.

      The other group is the institutionalized poor, second- or third-generation welfare recipients. The poor who are on benefits and are kept on benefits by the social welfare system. In an analysis of BPT’s poor not in families, 74% did not work. In poor families, only 1% had both parents working full-time. A study in Georgia showed 1/2 of all welfare recipients do not have a high school education. Did the lack of a high school diploma cause the need for welfare or did the welfare cause the lack of a high school diploma?
      www .ukcpr.org/Publications/DP2009-06.pdf
      top of page 3
      Evidence confirms and strengthens the findings of Miller and Zhang (2007) that welfare reform produced intergenerational educational gains.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Tom: The school system has been turned into a giant babysitting service. People think it is the teachers’ job to raise their kids, they blame the teachers for most of the behavior or lack thereof. We have kids in the 6 to 6 program which means they’re at school for 12 hours, that’s a lot of regimentation but it does not translate to more disciplined kids.
    Whatever the case what we are doing now is not the answer for the majority of the schools in Bridgeport.

  • Jmar2230

    I find “most” of these comments to be hilarious, alarming and extremely ignorant. I am not going to waste time on commenting to people who “think” they know it all, yet they don’t have a clue!!! HOWEVER, I would like to publicly point out what you failed to include in your well-thought-out and researched comments.
    1. When you mention my name you will address me as such; I am Jessica Martinez, born in Bridgeport Hospital 32 years ago, a woman of integrity, a woman of God/faith, another rape victim of Bridgeport’s taxes, community volunteer since the age of 10, hardworking woman who started working for the Lighthouse program in the seventh grade, a proud mother of two, a proud wife for 12 years and counting, a product of two hardworking, loving, giving and God-fearing parents, a coach to many children, mentoring with the emphasis of education first and teaching life skills for an amazing organization (Bridgeport Caribe Youth Leaders), I am professional with a mortgage finance background, a lover of people, a help to many, a friend to many, a donor to charity both monetarily and physically volunteering, I believe in righting wrongs and bringing justice to the injustices, I am strong, bold, opinionated, I believe in equality, I believe in all people but moreover, I believe in the minorities who continue to be case studies for future research data instead of truly educating them. I am NOT Excel Bridgeport, I am a part-time employee of theirs, I am a parent first!!! YES, I believe in Excel’s mission, I believe in the change we need in the schools and I believe in the work I do. I have no qualms in standing up for what I believe and I surly do not make the big bucks, for no amount of money am I a sell-out to anyone or anything! There is so much more you should know about me but all you really need to know is I AM BRIDGEPORT!!!
    2. Yes, I am a member of Gospel Light Community church since 1992. Yes, Pastor Pedro Vasquez is my Pastor. What you should also know is, he was a math Teacher in Bridgeport Public Schools for well over 20 years. Also, the former director of Math for the district of Bridgeport. With three daughters who graduated from BPS and graduated college!!! If anyone understands the needs of the children and the schools it would be Pastor Pedro, respect him! Pastor Pedro, a true man of integrity would not put his name on something he does not back 100%.
    3. The separation of church and state is exactly why our world is flipped upside down and acceptance of insanity! With so much hate, so much selfishness, misguided, no structure, no love, no mercy, no understanding, no forgiveness, no morals in SOME of the people today, more crimes happen in schools all around the world than learning.
    4. I work on the ground level with AMAZING parents, of all races, in every school in Bridgeport. The majority of the parents in Bridgeport is far from lazy and is active in their child’s life and education.
    5. I don’t see why this letter is taken out of context, it’s not hard to understand what they’re crying out for and it’s no wonder why Pastors are not more involved. I am sure most Pastors are overwhelmed with the workload in their own congregations to have to deal with nasty people, politics and drama. I guarantee the Pastors pray for Bridgeport, the City and people they served, DAILY!
    6. What you don’t seem to understand is if we continue to fight, hold personal vendettas and feel like there is some SIDE you have to be on, we will get NOWHERE!!! We will continue to be unfocused on the real issues and problems that need to be addressed. If you’re not a part of the solution, then you’re a part of the problem. Let me hear it, let me hear the solutions you propose!!! I back solutions that make sense. Exactly, no one has the answer or the problems in our schools would’ve been fixed years ago. So we need to collaborate, join together, to come up with genius outcomes. No, we will not agree with everything, but we will get somewhere with progress and meeting in the middle. I believe in better schools for all if that means more magnet, more charter, more private and more parochial schools, then so be it!!! I know what I am doing to contribute to the change needed, I know the value I add to the people of Bridgeport, to my son’s future and to the future of this City, BUT WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
    That’s all for now folks, have a wonderful day and contribute to the positive, life is too short to waste it on nonsense, make yours count!
    Thank you,
    Jessica Martinez

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Jessica, if I’m in a fight I want you on my side.

    • Bond Girl

      Everyone has a right to an opinion based on perceptions and beliefs. Now we have yours.

    • David Moore

      Ms. Martinez, you are really not in a position to preach to others about the world possessing “so much hate, so much selfishness, misguided, no structure, no love, no mercy, no understanding, no forgiveness, no morals in SOME people today.” As you know, I was at a peaceful rally held in front of Harding High School calling for Paul Vallas’ ouster. Although both you and your colleagues had every right to attend, you did not have the right to heckle and interrupt the scheduled speakers. The conduct of both you are your colleagues on that day did not represent love, understanding, forgiveness, unselfishness or proper guidance. You have repeatedly been disrespectful to Bridgeport Public School parents who unlike you are not paid a dime for the advocacy work they do. In addition, you have not demonstrated any of these attributes when making disparaging remarks about past and current BOE members. You are employed by an organization that has absolutely no credibility in Bridgeport and is perceived by many as part of the problem, not the solution.

      • David Moore

        And it doesn’t seem like your church is very accepting of gay married couples In fact it sounds very intolerant. Is this your idea of teaching diversity? Are you to tell me we should give public money to church-run schools that teach intolerance towards gays or non-Christians as many church-run schools do? As someone who has a gay relative who is married to another woman with two great well-adjusted kids, I find that very offensive. You have your right to believe what you believe as offensive as it may be to some. Doesn’t mean the rest of us should fund it.
        Many church schools teach the earth is only 6000 years old in SCIENCE CLASS! Are we to believe we should fund this with public moneys? When kids are facing an ever more competitive world that demands better skills in math and science, they need better than to be taught science out of the Bible which was never meant to be a science textbook.

        • John Marshall Lee

          Put away the hatchet, Dave! You are undercutting your effort in ways you do not understand. And that is sad.
          Ridicule like you are offering backfires in the face of genuine sharing of facts and status as JM has done above. Why not respect she is an activist and only partially compensated for her efforts? Why not acknowledge the fact she is there providing a better future course for her children … as she sees it?
          And last evening a “supporter” or “camp follower” of your NO CHARTER SCHOOL ‘redshirts’ did just that by failing to understand the bounds of respect and good communication when addressing a public meeting. His aspirations relative to the Mayoralty will have to climb out of a very deep hole he has dug for himself. And other leaders of your ‘redshirts’ had to apologize and dissociate themselves from the provocateur in the presence of the student who was specifically attacked verbally. Threatening six members of the BOE who voted their consciences just previous to his finale and needing to be reminded of respect and decorum were the shovels he used to dig the hole.
          By the way, author and Boston Globe science reporter Chet Raymo reported 50% of the US adult population shares the belief the earth’s age is closer to 10,000 years rather than several billions of years. Lots to learn about lots of subjects, you bet. Time will tell.

          • David Moore

            In response to your comments related to the “No Charter School” supporter, I will never support any adult making a disparaging remark about a child. Children are completely off limits. If the rest of the “No Charter School” supporters apologized for this person’s disrespectful conduct and disassociated from this individual, isn’t that a good thing? At least the anti-charter school proponents had the good sense to apologize and ostracize the disturbed individual who criticized a child publicly.
            And BTW John, I haven’t read that article and it doesn’t matter how many adults believe that … we shouldn’t be using tax dollars to indoctrinate kids with that in science class.

          • Steven Auerbach

            JML, your numbers are a bit off. First, most people interviewed were Evangelicals. They believe in creationism. They totally disregard science and the existence of dinosaurs. I want these people as far away from children as possible. Teaching ignorance does not move mankind forward. I actually met a teacher at Bassick who believed the earth was only 6000 years old. I wanted to puke in her face. Yes JML, these people are dangerous. Can you see a future where all science books are burned and ignorance is bliss? Even Jews accept the big bang theory and can explain the old testament by lifting the veils. The Bible is not a novel that was intended for movies and TV miniseries. I agree with David Moore, keep the churches out of the public schools. Separation of church and state benefits everyone.

          • Ron Mackey

            Steven Auerbach, Evangelicals take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

            The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.

          • Steven Auerbach

            Ron Mackey, Jesus was born a Jew, raised as a Jew, preached Judiasm, there is nothing new under the sun. He came to fulfill a religion not create a new one. His last supper was Passover. He was a Rabbi, was Kosher and followed the laws of Moses and the Torah. Whatever happened after his death or resurrection as you believe was a total paganization of the Jewish faith. That being said, I think Evangelicals need to educate themselves in reality and not rewrite the book and laws G-d gave to the world. After the 10 commandments, it is all commentary. G-d gave us free will and a brain and expected Man to evolve on all issues. So this is why I believe in separation of Church and State.
            Muslims, Jews and Christians may believe ultimately in the G-d of Abraham but we are all offended by each other’s interpretation. Religion can be a dangerous thing. The three major religions do not even acknowledge the Buddists, atheists, Hindus etc. Religion just happens to be my favorite topic of conversation. I refrain at parties. lol :-) … keep religion out of Public Schools.

  • Jmar2230

    Thank you, Lennie! I am just tired and I am wondering when everyone else will get tired and fight the fight we should be fighting.

    By the way, I borrowed your book about Bridgeport from the Downtown Library. It was really good and great to see what the old back-in-the-day Bridgeport used be about!!! My son enjoyed it, too!

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    I have spent the last six months volunteering in a Bridgeport Turn Around school in the same Kindergarten class with a very dedicated and accomplished teacher. I have witnessed first-hand how challenging it is to teach 24 children, from ages 4 to 6, with six different languages spoken at home (Spanish, Hungarian, Kurdish, English, Portuguese and Farsi) and 12 students eligible for special services. Bridgeport, much like all urban schools, is not a one-size-fits-all school system. These children are expected to be able to and are tested on their ability to read, add, subtract and write for 45 minutes at the end of kindergarten. I have watched as this teacher has made sure each student is praised for accomplishments, reminded firmly of expected behavior, disciplined without shaming, and given individual (very limited) time to reach these goals to the best of their abilities. There is one aide in the classroom and me part time. This letter seems to address the real issue–neither side has done what is necessary to find out what the children and teachers actually need, they just want to fight over who controls the money. The need in this classroom is to put at least two more professional full-time specialists in the classroom for the one-on-one time needed for the ESL students, the ADHD students, the autistic students, all of whom desperately need various times of one-on-one adult interaction to keep them focused and help them learn. And the parents? In this classroom, with very few exceptions the parents are there, involved and doing the very best they can to make sure their children are prepared (dress, food, notes, conferences, follow-up discipline at home) to get the best education their local public school can provide. The Federal guidelines requires a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability.
    The Federal Government fails to inform the public there is not enough money in America to make this very idealistic goal a reality in urban school districts. The letter is correct, both sides need to give and take and work out solutions. Mayor Finch has a vested interest in seeing Bridgeport Schools succeed. The BOE has a vested interest in seeing the Bridgeport Schools succeed. The Teachers have a vested interest in seeing the schools succeed. And each of us, parents and non-parents, have a very ve$ted interest in seeing our schools succeed.
    The very first thing I would like to see happen is an ESL intensive immersion program daily in each school for every student from a non-English-speaking home. It’s not much, but it’s a start. One of the major problems in life occurs when one is not understood, or does not understand, if the basic language spoken is not understood from your first day at school, in my humble opinion it is asking a lot of anyone to succeed with that obstacle to overcome. Yes, kids learn quickly, but six months later there is still a testing gap in the ESL students who can speak, read and write above grade level. I am sure there are many more viable programs that can and need to be implemented. The only way this can happen is for people to stop talking and start listening to those on the front lines and find solutions based on the real needs expressed.

    • Jmar2230

      YES, thank you Jennifer. Actually, we are working with a group of parents from a few schools and the issue of the Dual Language program. It doesn’t work and I don’t think it’s fair to blame teachers that their students are failing tests if they can’t even fluently read, write or speak the language. I appreciate the facts you brought forth! It will take all of us and I believe non-parents care and do have a vested interest. One day, I have hope no matter what!

    • Pete Spain

      Impressive commitment! Thanks for sharing your experiences here, Jennifer. Yes, it’s of great importance to us all in Bridgeport … and it should be to all of us in our state.

      As Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote in 1974:
      “Unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together.”

      Re ELL Students in CT (from 2010 report):
      “Although Connecticut’s sixteen poorest and highest need districts, which include 8 of the state’s ten largest cities, serve only 29% of Connecticut’s total student population, these same schools serve 73% of the total ELL student population.”

      “ELL students are significantly more likely than their peers to be from low-income families. During the 2007-2008 school year, 25.6 percent of the non-ELL student population qualified for free or reduced lunch; during this same school year, 70 percent of ELL students qualified for free or reduced price lunch.”

      Source: www .ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/edu10englishlanguage.pdf

      In 2011, 98.8% of school children in Bridgeport Public Schools qualified for free- and reduced-price lunch (FRPL) program. By comparison, Westport was 3%.

      14.9% (118,809);
      In cities:
      Hartford (47.9%), New Haven (41.4%), Bridgeport (39.9%), New Britain (35.7%), Waterbury (34.5%). Danbury (17.9%), Stamford (17.5%);
      By race/ethnicity:
      White 6.2%, African American 22.9%, Hispanic 27.3%.
      Hartford at 48% is highest in the country among U.S. cities >100k population.
      Note–these figures do not represent children living in poverty in these school districts–those figures are higher.

      Source: Wendy Lecker, Esq.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Poverty does play a role as to why many kids are failing in school among other factors like: Parents abusing drugs and alcohol; Parents who themselves lack an education (the people who dropped out or did poorly in school when they were young); the flood of immigrants (illegal and legal) who don’t, can’t, or won’t make an effort to learn English to be able to help their kids with schoolwork, communicate with teachers, and I can go on and on. Let’s not forget over 50% percent of students are and have been performing well in the same school system where the other half is failing. Why is it some do well and others do not, even in overcrowded classrooms? I will repeat a comment I made here a while ago regarding charter schools: The purpose for implementing the charter school method was to do a better job than the public schools have done. One can’t fix something that isn’t broken (the 50% plus performing well). A failing school system is reflected by those students performing poorly. If charter schools wants to come in and help fix the failing school system, then take all the poor performing students and fix them; help them; save them. Why come into a public school system and take away students who are doing fine? If the charter school concept is so much better than the public school system, then let’s place all the poor-performing students in charter schools and have them prove they can fix the failing part of our public schools. If charter schools can prove they can turn failing students around, I’ll be 100% for charter schools.

    Poverty is here to stay a while in Connecticut. Here is more proof of the fine job our beloved Democrats have been doing to help improve our cities and state:
    “5. Connecticut. While the four states worse than it were all in the bottom 10 last year, Connecticut fell nine places this year to drop into this list. Here again, high incomes are not enough to make up for a high cost of living. Also, unemployment is high, and workplace conditions place ahead of only Mississippi’s.”
    www .money-rates.com/research-center/worst-states-to-make-a-living/2014.htm

  • Bridgeporteur

    If you want to get together, both sides on this issue should unite against a common foe. I submit the common foe is the State of Connecticut and we should all be marching, hand-in-hand, up to the Capitol and demand the State fund Bridgeport to give them parity with New Haven and Hartford. All this energy should be channeled there! After all, operations are largely underfunded in Bridgeport as compared to Hartford and New Haven.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      If only it were that easy. Both those towns took the time to find magnet schools received more funding than public schools and implemented the changes needed. Too many of our elected officials are more concerned about keeping their city jobs, the jobs for their family members and finding loopholes to show school support by giving their family members with city jobs BOE in-kind services. Then there are the state reps we elect who do not understand their job is to write laws (statutes), not break and manipulate them, because they want to keep their city jobs, or their family members’ city jobs. And the best weapon they use is our tax dollars. We are seen as a city that takes so much state tax dollars and are too uneducated to manage the over $700 million we already have to run this city efficiently. Hartford does not care, because not enough people in Bridgeport do not care, nor believe the current system can be changed for the better.

    • Jmar2230

      That would be nice!

  • Local Eyes

    If you want to understand BPS, jump into the “skunkworks” (lowest common level) and talk directly to children. Fate arranged a meeting for me. The State of Connecticut recently identified Marin School in Bridgeport as its next target for immediate help (take note, Bridgeporteur).
    The problem is easy; the solution is not. But while some are blogging, I’m at table six, turning boys into little men under the watchful eye of the BOE.

    • Jmar2230

      I took my son out of Marin. I couldn’t wait for the “help” that was coming. He needed to get out of that school and although there are amazing, unsupported teachers in that school, the odds are against them. I am grateful for the help that is coming from the commissioner’s network, I just worry about how they will sustain that change when they stop getting the extra money. I was in that school every single day volunteering my time for a solid two years, a lot of people don’t know the truth about what goes on in that building. Not to mention the mistreatment and straight abandonment of really good teachers. I tried to give the benefit of the doubt to the principal but at no point in his 10 years of tenure at that school did he advocate for his students or teachers. But in the end as I always say to everyone, there is no ONE solution and there is no ONE clear problem. Yes, we are an underfunded district but does more money really matter when it’s mismanaged? Or there are litigation costs up the yin yang that take from our children and our pockets? Yes, we have GREAT teachers and we also have some not-so-great teachers who are protected. Yes, we have AMAZING hardworking parents and then we have parents who are not so great! Incredible intelligent awesome children but then we have unruly children who are a danger to themselves and others, as well as disrespectful. But with drugs, gangs, prostitution, abuse and homelessness, some people have no idea what some of the hurt, wounded children go through at home. I could continue to go on and on but the fact is there isn’t one problem, there’s a host of problems and I’m sure there isn’t one solution but rather a multiple collaborative!!!

      • Steven Auerbach

        Jessica, you are correct. Of the 34 public schools in Bridgeport, Luis Marin is one of the worst. With all of the principal musical chairs going on, I am surprised no changes were made in that school. I have been a regular at Beardsley School. Those kids are wonderful, well behaved, respectful and a joy to spend time with. The next step for 7th and 8th graders is Luis Marin.
        I am hopeful Marin will improve. On the surface, it is a very attractive school with many dedicated teachers, hopefully the entire area will benefit from state help and a new high school.

  • Bridgeporteur

    We all have our war stories about how outrageous things have become. Jennifer posits no one cares. I think it is time to CARE!

  • David Moore

    Let us not forget when the CT Supreme Court agreed to hear the case regarding the illegal takeover of the BBOE, both Excel Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Public Education Fund retained the services of Pullman & Comley (Stafstrom’s Firm) to submit an amicus brief supporting the illegal takeover and in support of the appointed board.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I would like to see some group of individuals that would actually care about what is going on in the classrooms every day. Do any of you know? Most of you people are arguing over money pure and freaking simple, MONEY.
    As far as I can tell, charter schools are a farce, they cherry-pick the kids they want and when they get a problem child they send them back to the public school. So in my opinion charter schools are really private schools we taxpayers pay for.
    The school system as it is constituted now is doomed to fail, You can’t mix special-needs kids and regular students in the same classroom. Ask any teacher and they tell you they spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the special-needs kids to the detriment of the other students. You cannot mainstream all students, it just hurts the regular students. We need to go back to the formulas of 6-1-1 and 8-1-1, which means six special ed kids, one teacher and one paraprofessional. In 8-1-1 it would be eight children one teacher and one paraprofessional.
    If need be you would have one or two schools for the special-needs kids with proper staffing thus they learn at their own pace and the regular students get a full day of learning. It will cost more but it will work.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      In other towns the Realtors unite and put real pressure on the BOE to improve schools. They are very active in individual school events. They understand good schools drive the real estate market in areas close to NYC.

      • David Moore

        Jennifer–Moales, Kelleher and Illingworth were elected in 2012. It will be interesting to see what happens next November should all three seek reelection. What about Trefry, Bankowski and Norton? I remember now, they couldn’t run for office because Trefry lives in Fairfield, Bankowski lives in Wethersfield and Norton lives in NEW YORK. What about Smith-Tompkins, you know the seventh appointed BBOE member who only showed up for six meetings and then just disappeared?

      • David Moore

        In one breath you state there is a power struggle and “It IS all about who controls the flow of money.” Then you post in several cities in CT the real estate agents work together to put pressure on school boards to elevate or maintain school performance. Now is that because real estate agents such as yourself are concerned about the children or are you concerned about your commission checks? I mean we would never want it to be about the “flow of money,” right, Jennifer?

        • Jimfox

          No retort, Jen?

          • John Marshall Lee

            Do you have a life away from OIB? Are you waiting for Jennifer to respond to Dave’s barking up a wrong tree? Are you another of the “often confused but never in doubt” troupe? It’s a waste of time.

            How about Moore and you sharing your classroom experiences and observations as Jennifer did above.

            Both of us have had some experience in Fairfield and probably observed real estate sales and marketing. You have to admit, as JB suggested, a strong message to buyers coming into surrounding neighborhood towns is the success of as well as the features of their school systems … how youth with special needs are served … what sports, music or art programs are available … as well as how many of their graduates go on to top-ranked schools. Does that sell houses and provide increased market value? You bet.
            What story does our OPED get to tell to companies looking to locate here for the benefit of their employee families? Craft the message in your salty language and give us a witty retort, please. Time will tell.

          • Jennifer Buchanan

            You Jim, I am not speaking to ;-) JML I am always speaking to …

        • John Marshall Lee

          Dave, wrong once again but never in doubt, are you? For starters, JB is not a real-estate salesperson as you suggest. Never sold real estate to the best of my knowledge. So your “mad dog” attack on her commission checks are so much random barking up the wrong tree as it turns out.

          But it does show “following the money” trail is something you understand. So has anyone been paying you to post since your return from Arizona, or wherever you went when you left Bridgeport? It seems as if your attempts at research have improved though you still like to argue to win your point rather than learn a broader story.

          Perhaps you will refer me to a previous entry where you disclosed your “story” as to what you do for a living, how you are compensated, whether you have children or family attending or working in schools, etc. Your posts in the past used to cover the waterfront but it seems you have moved to a single issue these days and I cannot be the only person who is curious about the person behind the opinions. Happy to provide similar info any time, though I think much of it has seen the light of day on OIB in the past. What has you so strong to condemn all who see things from a different viewpoint than you? Time will tell.

          • David Moore

            JML, I believe Local Eyes was attempting sarcasm. As far as my interest in education, I have been engaged in this issue since at least 2011 and spent countless hours knocking on doors to help elect John Bagley. You do not hold an exclusive on education issues and I do not have to give you any reasons or explain why I comment on issues regarding education. If you think the education reform effort to expand charter schools and privatize education is a significant issue in CT, it is even worse in Arizona.

        • Jennifer Buchanan

          I am not a real estate agent, never have been. And yes, Realtors’ livelihood depends on selling houses, they have the ability to organize and put pressure on both the administration and school boards. I doubt they care who controls the school budgets, they care public schools are performing in a manner that makes people want to move here.

          • David Moore

            Jennifer, I apologize for implying you are a Realtor, you are after all a mortgage broker. However, as a mortgage broker you do financially benefit from the sales of homes. Mortgage brokers receive a salary, a commission or both on the mortgages themselves.

          • BOE SPY

            implyin–strongly suggest the truth or existence of
            accuse–claim (someone) has done something wrong

            Dave– which one of the two things listed did you do? I included the definitions so as to not confuse you.

  • Local Eyes

    I go where the problems are.
    I signed up for the difficult part.
    I volunteer at Marin School, where I don’t see trouble, just unrealized potential.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Thanks for joining with the community and serving. The most difficult part is all of this takes time, and therefore requires patience. I expect you can see some potential developed that otherwise would have been dormant had you not been there. That is income to you no one can tax. Keep it up. Encourage others to make the effort. Thank you. Time will tell.


    Let’s get a little reality about these billionaires lining their pockets. The Koch brothers gave the United Negro College fund $25 mil. If they wanted to line their pockest they could have kept the $25 mil. $25 mil would not be too shabby; however the BOE’s ~$225 mil budget would be better. Or the Koch brothers could take their $100 BILLION and put it in a passbook savings account @1%. That would make them $1 BILLION (Billion with a B) a year. If they wanted to and they really wanted the BBOE they could buy the entire city (7 billion grand list) and have $93 billion left over. Do you really think someone with $100 billion is putting all this effort into some ominous, clandestine scheme to make (maybe) 10% off the top of the BBOE budget? That would be ~$23 mil. Or less than what they gave to the UNCF this year alone. Koch private foundations gave $41.2 million to 89 nonprofit organizations. If $23 mil was that important to them they could keep the $41 mil they donate to charity every year. I believe this struggle is about money for one group. The Koch brothers already have $100 billion. I do not think it is them.

    • Pete Spain

      BOE SPY,
      Are you addressing thin air or the New Yorker article?

      Maybe after you read the article, you can spew forth here … or, better, write to David Remnick.

      You root out the red menace yet?

      How does a Birch Society guy defend the likes of Moales who is, at least, according to the state that contracts with his daycare facility … ripping off taxpayers? Wouldn’t that be leaning commie to you?

      • BOE SPY

        The article, like most of the trite nonsense out of the New Yorker, makes JML look concise. For God’s sake it is 12 pages with one page about Chris Christy riding around in a car and two pages about Zuckerberg eating lunch. After you get through the random, manic rambling, you can take away a few things from the article. The city BOE was fraught with waste and corruption. The unions involved intentionally set up the charter schools to fail. The state was no better at running the schools than the city. Newark’s schools were terrible and everyone involved, except the union, just wanted to help. The union did seem to want to help the teachers but that is their job. Everyone else involved invested 100s of millions of personal and taxpayer dollars into the problem. He seemed to like Spark (page 9 just after the cartoon), a charter. Charter schools received less public money per pupil, but with leaner bureaucracies, more dollars reached the classroom. He also liked taking away teacher seniority and replacing it with pay according to competency. Spark made significant gains.

        What did you get from the article?

        • David Moore

          Notice he didn’t answer your question, Pete. The Koch brothers spent millions and millions to defeat Medicaid expansion for the working poor. I am not sure what they get out of it other than plain old power, greed and just plain meanness.

          • Ron Mackey

            There is no doubt BOE SPY and Megan DeSombre are being paid to make comments by some group like the Koch brothers and their group the Americans for Prosperity or think tanks like the Heritage Foundation or others like the Cato Institute or FreedomWorks, that’s why BOE SPY can’t give his real name.

          • BOE SPY

            What question did you want me to answer?

  • Andmar

    One of the fundamental issues has to do with how urban schools are funded. Historically, Bridgeport has been underfunded despite having similar demographics to New Haven and Hartford, or if not worse. Here is a link, it’s likely the numbers are still similar.

    • BOE SPY

      The stats you posted are interesting. Read the data with an eye toward achievement. The stats represent BPT (#161), Hartford (#160) although it is not clear if Achievement First Hartford (#131) is included and New Haven (#156). Bridgeport is the lowest ranked. Hartford did 0.625% better and New Haven did 3.1% better.
      The article Pete posted:
      Cory Booker, Chris Christie, and Mark Zuckerberg had a plan to reform Newark’s schools. They got an education.”
      www .newyorker.com/reporting/2014/05/19/140519fa_fact_russakoff
      The moral, or schooling that took place, was the system is designed to maximize spending. If this spending results in high achievement, that is good. If the spending results in low achievement, that is better. Poor performance inspires more spending. If you try to reform education your efforts will be futile. The unions, school system and corporate education complex will not let hippie reformers upset their golden apple cart.
      The people of BPT have to decide if they want to continue with our current, failing, educational money-eating machine or try something else.

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