Dems Endorse Three New School Board Candidates, Primary Possible

City Democrats Monday night endorsed three newcomers for Board of Education at a party convention at Testo’s Restaurant. A challenge slate is expected to pull petition papers Tuesday (today) to try to secure signatures from five percent of registered Democrats to wage a September primary.

The 90-member town committee endorsed Rev. Simon Castillo, pastor of Good Shepherd Christian Church for 49 years, who has served on several city boards and commissions throughout the years, Brandon Clark, a teacher with Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, and Katie Bukovsky, an education marketing professional for MDR, a Dun & Bradstreet company, active at Black Rock School. She’s the sister of Black Rock District Leader Dan Roach.

Incumbent Democratic school board candidates Tom Mulligan, Leticia Colon and Bobby Simmons are not seeking reelection.

An opposition school board slate may provide company in September. East End City Councilman Andre Baker, former City Councilman Dave Hennessy, a retired school teacher, and Howard Gardner, an ex-candidate for City Council will try to petition their way onto the ballot. A coalition of activists including East End committeeman Charlie Coviello will be scouring the necessary signatures to wage a primary. Coviello says leaders of the teacher’s union the Bridgeport Education Association, opposed to Mayor Bill Finch and Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas, will assist the signature process.

Former City Council President Lisa Parziale and former State Senators Ed Gomes and Ernie Newton announced their support for Andre Baker for school board at the convention. Baker’s name was placed into nomination but support for endorsement came up short. Still, Baker has pockets of support from pols who know how to pull out primary votes from neighborhoods, including West Side, East Side, East End and North End.

Democrats currently hold a 5-4 advantage on most contentious school board votes over members of the Connecticut Working Families Party, which will field candidates in the November general election.

Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa took a swipe at the Working Families Party for trying to take control of city schools. “The opposition has no plans,” Testa told party insiders from the ballroom of his restaurant. “Our main concern is the kids of the city of Bridgeport. The Working Families Party will come after us with everything they have.”

The endorsement session Monday night went according to plan for campaign operatives of Mayor Bill Finch who no doubt will be weighing in on this school board election to try to keep control away from Democratic opponents aligned with the Working Families Party.

Democrats also endorsed incumbent city sheriffs Dennis Scinto, Willie Murphy and Mitch Robles to two-year terms. Scinto has served as a city sheriff, with one two-year break, since 1987. He’s among the longest-serving elected officials in city history. Socialist Mayor Jasper McLevy served from 1933-1957. City Clerk Fleeta Hudson has served consecutively since 1991.

On the City Council front Democrats endorsed:

130th District, incumbents Sue Brannelly and Steve Stafstrom.

131st District, incumbents Denese Taylor-Moye and Jack Banta.

132nd District, endorsed incumbents John Olson and Evette Brantley could face a September primary from Bob Halstead, former long-time city planner, and Trish Swain.

133rd District, incumbents Tom McCarthy and Howard Austin.

134th District, incumbents Michelle Lyons and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia.

135th District, the Rev. Mary Lee, a city schoolteacher, says she’s planning to primary endorsed incumbents Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney.

136th District, Ricky DeJesus, former officer with the the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has his campaign up and running for a potential September primary against endorsed incumbents Angel DePara and Carlos Silva.

In the 137th District get ready for the battle royal on the East Side. Incumbent Lydia Martinez will have to wage a primary to win reelection. Former council member Maria Valle and Aidee Nieves, members of the town committee district, received the endorsement Monday night. Martinez plans on seeking reelection with Milta Feliciano, instead of incumbent Manny Ayala who jabbed Martinez by placing Valle and Nieves into nomination.

138th District, incumbents Mike Marella and Rich Paoletto.

In the 139th District, James Holloway, the longest-serving member of the council, was endorsed for another two-year term with East End activist Eneida Martinez-Walker. Andre Baker, planning a primary for school board, will not seek reelection to his council seat.

Primary challengers can pull petition papers to seek signatures to win a ballot spot in September. They have about two weeks to return signatures to election officials for review and certification. That means for a school board seat securing five percent of signatures (roughly 2000) from Democratic electors citywide, for council seats five percent of electors from each respective district.

City Republicans will conduct a candidate convention Tuesday night at the North End Library.



  1. This will be a very interesting primary. Good candidates (and some not so much) on both sides and that doesn’t throw in the Republicans or the WFP. In so far as the BOE candidates are concerned, this will be a true measure of how engaged the electorate is in this fight for control of the schools. Time will tell there. As for the Council seats look for some very interesting DTC endorsed candidates who are not signed up for nodding at the party line. East Side, East End, all around the town. And of course, how could we not watch Lydia fight for her absentee life??? I’m pulling up my chair. I want a front-row view!

  2. Off Topic but On Target:
    When is Finch going to stop covering up for this guy?
    For years Moales’ church has been operated without a Certificate of Occupancy. For some period of time, Moales and his family have operated a K-6 school in the building!!! I guess Vallas will say it’s only a piece of paper.
    Here is the President of the BOE knowing children are attending a subsidized school in a building that does not have a COO.
    And when questioned abut it, the Reverend said “‘We have one. We have a temporary one,’ Moales contended. But when told there is no record of a certificate of occupancy on file with the city’s building office, he added: ‘It’s not a problem.'”
    This guy has got to go and he has got to go NOW!!! And if Finch keeps covering up for him, then Finch has got to go too. I thought it was all about the children.

    1. It is kind of interesting. Moales didn’t care about the law concerning credentials for Vallas and apparently when it comes to Certificates of Occupancy for a very large church building doesn’t appear to care. “Laws, we don’t need no stinkin’ laws!” must be his battlecry! And Mario sounds desperate. Of course he is not worried about the Republicans … on local matters they have been scratching each others’ backs for years.

  3. I have to disagree with Mario Testa when he says the Democratic party is only concerned about the kids in school.
    Mario, the Finch administration could give two shits about the kids. This is about power and money and nothing more. The party has repeatedly tried to take over the BOE and its budget by many sneaky and illegal moves. The people in power could give a damn about the kids. Take a look at the Democratic nominees put up by the town committee, that says it all.

  4. As the school issues burn, I must note an interesting side note, what the hell is “Birdman Finch” doing with Malloy and the state’s congressional delegation in New Haven? He once told me he did not want to be Mayor, he wanted a bigger and more powerful position at the state or federal level. I hope he leaves soon.

  5. “I will acknowledge that the board represents the entire school community, and will refuse to surrender my independent judgment to special interest or partisan political groups.”

    During the past few days, I have been reading articles from CABE. I’ve been considering entering the race for the Bridgeport Board of Education. A little over a month ago, my 10-year-old daughter who suffers from autism and is non-verbal, started coming home with bruises on her body. To make a long story short, my wife and I requested to see the videos from her bus. The bus company, the bus driver and the bus monitor unioned-up refusing to release the video. It’s about the children we are told.
    This morning, I had the opportunity to meet the other challengers who so far have stepped up to the plate. Just like the other challengers, I filled a petition request form and am looking forward to gaining a spot on the ballot for the Bridgeport Board of Education. The quote above is from the Connecticut Association for Boards of Education (CABE)–it’s the only promise I will make.
    Every challenger needs all the help they can get to secure a spot on the ballot. I welcome all the help I can get and I’m committed to helping any challenger achieve their short-term goal. I’m sure during the past few years many folks are of the opinion the BOE have been acting like cavemen. I can assure OIB readers if I were to be elected to the BOE, I’ll conduct myself like a CABEman.

    1. We sure did reported to DCF, Trumbull PD , CES, the bus company and BOE Transportation. The bus company refused to turn over the video to DCF. You think I’m not going to put your tax dollars to work here?
      It’s interesting the BOE has a Bullying Policy. It prohibits students from bullying via electronic devices. If I bully you via Facebook, that evidence is used against me. It says nothing about the bus monitors or drivers abusing kids. If my wife was to give one of them a fist sandwich, I’m sure they’d use the bus video as evidence against her. Didn’t the BOE used video evidence on a principal recently?

    BRIDGEPORT – Don Kennedy, brought in by Paul Vallas as an interim chief operating officer shortly after his arrival in the district 18 months ago, has left the district to become Chief Financial officer for the Boston Public School System, it was confirmed Tuesday.
    Kennedy was formerly the chief financial officer in Seattle Public Schools but lost that job at the same time as Seattle schools superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson was fired.
    This is what one would expect to see happen and what may be wrong with the Vallas model. When someone leaves the Seattle School System and comes to little old B’port, the challenges decrease significantly. That is why he is now off to Boston. I am not saying this is good or bad but merely to be expected.

  7. Change is in the water these days, Bob. Perhaps it is why Aquarion wants to raise the fees when the water comes to your house and WPCA is looking for more money to clean it up and deliver it to its next resting place.

    Don Kennedy functioned as interim Operating Officer. He was a former military officer and I found him clear in his reports as well as supporting transparency about the school system. With the new schools coming on line as well as the renovations funded by Capital bonding, this is an important area of responsibility for maintenance and cost control. Are there local personnel to take his place now that there is a plan, a budget and movement happening? Time will tell.

    1. It is called the School Building Committee.
      He was CFO in Seattle.
      He will be CFO in Boston.
      He doesn’t have a background in construction management.
      Why do you bring up new schools and renovations?
      And why should you or anyone else care if it is paid for by capital funds or out of an operating budget?
      And lastly I do not give a rat’s ass about a military background and I do not understand how a military background is supposed to assist in a transparent operation. The last thing the military cares about is transparency.
      Can you quit sucking up to Vallas and his posse?

  8. The only thing up is your blood pressure and your taxes. I frankly thought you were always concerned about money issues. It does make a difference where money is being spent from, I recall if you have forgotten. We go through a charade each year, not much changed from when you served, but where have you been the past several years when “ghost positions” were indicated and passed by the CC. Not a peep. Did your silence mean you agreed or were you not interested. (Maybe you were checking out “rat’s asses” to learn you did not care about them.)

    And the Charter I know you have read more than once continues to be ignored by Finch and CC in terms of Capital Budget recommendations by cityfolk, presentation in public hearing with discussion perhaps and certainly a document made available with sufficient detail for real learning.
    Not done in your day! Not done yet! Where is your comment on that? Does it not rise to sufficient importance?

    Are you saying $600 Million of capital projects are passing through that School Building Committee and minutes for those meetings were not posted with the City Clerk’s office for 2013? I understand that is being rectified. That is about open, accountable and transparent, unless you don’t care about those subjects. I never assumed your outbursts were only about posing for the cameras, but your recent wild man loud-mouth rants are making me wonder. Not that you need to or seem to care.

    By the way are you happy with construction management services in the City? Are you so happy there is not a scintilla of concern something might be more efficient or ultimately less expensive? If so, why isn’t that your subject tonight, last night, anytime in the past four years?

    And what drink have you become so attached to, you can’t respect a respectful and organized individual working in Bridgeport governance? In my experience, I have found military duty can help develop a respectful attitude for competence and authority, a pride in completing the job, and endurance in the face of big odds against. Those are qualities I saw in Don Kennedy. Sorry you have not shared my experience.

    Of course I don’t have the background you do and vice versa but I do believe in lifetime learning by reading, attending and listening to those wonderful people in Bridgeport who wish to be fairly treated with trusted leadership. Just what do you wish for the City in the future? And what is the real reason for your testiness? Naturally if I have misjudged your last several comments, I am ready to apologize for my speculations. What say you? Time will tell.

  9. Lennie, maybe I missed it but I didn’t see Hector Diaz Jr.’s name mentioned anywhere as a candidate for the Bridgeport Board of Education, so is he or is he not running?


Leave a Reply