Democratic school board candidates Andre Baker, Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey set forth their education priorities in this commentary:
The B.E.S.T. team of Dave Hennessey, Andre Baker and Howard Gardner was successful in the Board of Education Democratic primary on September 10th and will continue on to November’s general election.
Thank you, gracias, grazie, obrigado and merci. We have tried to express our gratitude to each and every citizen of Bridgeport. We’ve reached out to voters from diverse backgrounds and from all corners of our city, thanking those who supported us in our resounding victory in September. Obviously, we cannot contact each voter personally, but we have expended great effort in thanking as many of you as we possibly can.
The B.E.S.T. team has a pro-reform message, but not the narrowly defined, flawed privatization and corporate takeover direction currently being pursued by the administration. Our team has been asked to meet with the current city administration. We felt that a proposed meeting would be presumptive on our part. The B.E.S.T. team has yet to be elected. After all, the Board of Education is an autonomous entity and, as such, does not answer to the administration. November 5th’s general election will determine which candidates are the most desirable for Bridgeport’s electorate. There will be ample time for all Board of Education members to meet, should they so desire, with the administration after November’s decisive vote.
Voters listened to our message during the primary campaign. They agreed with the B.E.S.T. team as it dealt an overwhelming defeat to the “rubber stamp” Board of Education and the “status quo” of political business as usual. Parents and taxpayers wish to have a quality public education for all of their children. All school children in Bridgeport must have the same opportunity for success.
What can the B.E.S.T. team do? How can the B.E.S.T. team help to give all children the quality public school education they deserve? We were asked these questions repeatedly during our walks around the various neighborhoods in our city. We replied that we are candidates who will demonstrate a commitment to shared governance. We will actively seek input from parents, teachers, administrators, students, and the community. Our team will not handle this participation in a perfunctory way. We will not be beholden to the city administration, the teachers association, any particular interest group, or overly influential parents. We will ask questions and demand answers on any, and all, matters regarding the education deserved by all students. The B.E.S.T. team will support administrators, but challenge them when it is appropriate. The position of the teachers association is to be respected, but will not control the Board’s agenda. Active and vociferous parents must be heard, but not permitted to sway the Board’s objective of doing what’s best for all children in our district.
What happens if the B.E.S.T. team is elected in November? Some of the problems in our schools have been occurring for an extended period of time. It will take an equally long time to rectify those particular issues. A long range plan, implemented by a balanced Board of Education concerned with long term progress of all of our students, will address those. There are some problems, however, that are a direct result of an unqualified leader using a “rubber stamp” Board of Education to do what’s politically expedient, not what’s in the best interests of our children.
These immediate issues facing the Board of Education at its first meeting are many, but are not limited to the following. They are in no particular order.
• Reduction of guidance counselors and subsequent extreme burden for our needy students;
• Loss of vital paraprofessionals for our youngest students;
• Elimination of Math and Reading coaches and tutors;
• Lack of enough nursing/healthcare coverage;
• Expansion of Early Childhood education;
• Overcrowding in many schools;
• Implementation of further testing, which takes away MORE valuable instruction time;
• Continued hiring of inexperienced “teachers” (5 weeks of training) as opposed to teachers with 4 years of training, despite the fact that these inexperienced “teachers” cost more than $3,000 additional dollars per year to employ;
• Inordinate hours by principals working on teacher evaluations, which inhibit them from being the instructional leaders of their schools.
What are the B.E.S.T slate’s solutions? Dave, Howard and Andre will be dedicated to the basic premise that ALL of Bridgeport’s children deserve the same quality public school education that our parents and grandparents received. We will demand of our legislators that the State of Connecticut adopt and implement legislation that fully funds the Education Cost Sharing formula over the next 5 years. It’s currently under-funded by over than $763 million. We will ensure that civility is the norm on the Board of Education, and that all voices are heard and valued.
CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) states:
Good board members: Put children first
Believe in public schools
Maintain high standards of conduct
Treat all individuals with respect