Update: Finch statement on Harding included
Harding High School is sick and needs an operation. No, a renovation. No, a transformation.
The 85-year-old school enjoys a creative inspiring principal in Carol Birks, dedicated teachers, resilient kids learning under disgraceful learning conditions. The building is a disaster. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont sings at the chance to highlight the kids he taught there as a volunteer years ago. I hope, if he becomes governor, Ned puts his money (our money) where his mouth seeks votes. Is he all talk and no action?
A community meeting is scheduled to take place tonight at the Aquaculture School next to Captain’s Cove Seaport and P. T. Barnum Apartments to bring attention to the school’s despair. Education officials and city pols are expected to be in attendance. Harding needs a champion. Harding needs respect. Harding needs a new school. Harding needs a single-minded pain in the ass to further its cause. It’s frustrating for parents and Harding advocates, frustrating for local education officials. Where do we get the money? Where do we build it? Lots of teeth-gnashing. No creative solutions. Is there room at Bullard Havens or UB while a new school is built? Can you build a new school on the existing Harding athletic field? Is anybody getting this???
Statement from Mayor Finch
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch today announced that he will be amending his proposed Capital Spending Plan to provide $10 million for the construction of a new Harding High School.
The announcement comes after weeks of meetings between the Mayor, the Board of Education President Barbara Bellinger, Budget Chairman Pat Crossin, City Council President Tom McCarthy and Superintendent John Ramos. This decision also was based on information received from education advocates and parent groups.
Funds to rebuild Harding High School were approved by the State of Connecticut in 2002. In 2006, those funds were returned to the state because the City of Bridgeport could not identify a site to relocate and build a new high school. These events pre-dated the Finch Administration.
Board of Education staff and the Board of Education’s Construction Management consultant have assured the Mayor that the current location can be utilized to build a new high school and is an eligible site to receive state funds. This decision, and its expected approval by the City Council, will enable the City to move forward with filing an application on June 1 of this year to receive state funds to build a new Harding High School.
The Mayor’s spending priorities to date have been focused on renovations, and the construction of two new magnet schools for which the City receives a 95-percent reimbursement from the state. These schools, the new Discovery Magnet School and the Interdistrict Magnet High School, will provide hundreds of new seats for Bridgeport students and will help lower class size. Given the financial challenges the City faces, this spending plan provides the most fiscally prudent path to pursue and one which would help the greatest number of students in the shortest amount of time.
Finch stated, “As a parent of public school students, I am very much aware of the inadequacies of several of our facilities, and will continue to fight at the state level to secure more funding to rebuild or renovate our schools. Improving schools is the most important civil rights issue of our time. My priorities to date have been based on the projects that are most responsible for Bridgeport taxpayers, and which would help the greatest number of our students in the shortest amount of time. I will be putting a lot of pressure on the Board of Education and its Construction Management consultant to ensure that the City does not make the same mistake twice. Proper siting and planning for this school is critical. I welcome input from parents and students in this process.”
Gwen Samuel of the child advocacy group stateofblackct.org sent out the following email to rally support of Harding.
This is Gwen Samuel, Chairperson/Parent leader of the State of Black CT Alliance. State lawmakers and myself had the distinct pleasure of meeting some awesome Bridgeport parents and young people, some preparing to go to college, at a tour of Harding High School.
I had the not so pleasant experience of knowing that this “dungeon like” school, that I saw built in 1925, with its crumbling cement patched up walls, “undisturbed” asbestos walkways in the auditorium, gaping hole under a sink, very very limited, one would argue NO textbook classrooms is the home of over 1200 students and to add insult to the injury, they were removed from an “improvement” list citing, in so many words, that their condition was so bad they were not worthy of renovating YET parents must send their kids there. It is clear that depending on where you live in Bridgeport and your socio-economics some parents have choices and clearly others do not matter!
1. Why isn’t Senator Gaffey and Representative Fleishmann co-chairs/lawmakers of the CGA Education Committee made aware of this situation?
2. Why is the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for Education not aware of this? Secretary Arne Duncan has appointed many staff to investigate Civil Rights complaints as it relates to closing the achievement gap/education and this a violation if I have ever seen one!
3. Why is the Governor’s new “Education Gap” Commission not made aware of this?
4. Where is the State Department of Education? Look at the Race to the Top remarks from the FEDS and you will see why this is allowed to happen in Bridgeport
Bridgeport is a priority District and to add insult to the injury again, based on the City’s decision making process, a non PRIORITY school will get all of the “attention” which clearly equates to “some students are not worth educating over others therefore one will not waste their time to improve their environment to foster learning, let’s not leave out safety.
This is disgrace and a slap in the face to all those students who just want a good education to improve upon their lives as they prepare for college or a career.
People tell me Bridgeport is not like Gaffey’s City of Meriden or Fleishmann’s City of West Hartford. The question in Bridgeport becomes who decides what children get an education or NOT. Clearly Bridgeport appears to be immune from the state supreme court ruling!
On March 22, 2010 the state Supreme Court ruled that Connecticut school children are guaranteed an adequate standard of quality in their public school … the state constitution requires “that the public schools provide their students with an education suitable to give them the opportunity to be responsible citizens able to participate fully in democratic institutions, such as jury service and voting, and to prepare them to progress to institutions of higher education, or to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy.” (Source URL: www.ctmirror.org/story/5244/state-supreme-court-rules-school-funding-case )
This is wrong and as a parent of color, this clearly looks like segregation, discrimination and classism.
You need State and Federal intervention!!! Parents may need to sit in the Governor’s office and lawmakers office until this matter is looked at independently.
This is immoral and wrong!
From Jim Himes
Himes Announces $50,000 Grant for HIV/AIDS Prevention Program
Federal Funding Awarded to Bridgeport’s Mount Aery Baptist Church for their Ashe HIV Faith Project
Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today announced $50,000 in federal funding for Bridgeport’s Mount Aery Baptist Church’s HIV prevention program. These critical funds will be used to make the program more efficient and effective in preventing and reducing HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.
“Mount Aery Baptist Church has played a vital role in our community by raising awareness and providing education on HIV prevention and treatment,” said Congressman Himes. “We must continue to work to reduce substance abuse by promoting safe, healthy behaviors to our nation’s youth, and to adults. These funds will provide much needed support to Mount Aery’s initiative.”
The Ashe HIV Faith Project offers community workshops in the area of HIV/AIDS awareness and substance abuse in the greater Bridgeport area. These workshops provide an opportunity to raise awareness about the impact of the disease in communities of color. Mt. Aery’s main goal is to ensure residents utilize existing HIV testing services and learn their HIV status. Clients are then referred to appropriate services for follow up.
“We are excited to have been chosen as 1 of 31 grantees across the country for the 2010 grant award of the Faith & Community Based Support Initiative,” said Dr. Anthony L. Bennett, Pastor at Mount Aery Baptist Church. “We are looking forward to addressing HIV/AIDS and substance abuse in collaboration with our faith based and community partners. Our staff is in place and ready to serve.”
Mount Aery was the only organization in Connecticut to receive funding from The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Faith & Community Based Support Initiative (FCBSI). FCBSI seeks to provide mini subcontracts to 32 faith- and community-based organizations that have existing HIV or substance abuse prevention programs. By strengthening collaboration among faith- and community-based organizations, federal, state, and local governments, the initiative seeks to reduce substance abuse among youth, promote the use of HIV testing services, and decrease the impact of substance abuse on communities of color through education, prevention, and awareness.
From Dick Blumenthal:
ATTORNEY GENERAL ISSUES INTERIM INVESTIGATIVE REPORT ON CT HUMANE SOCIETY
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today issued a preliminary investigative report on the Connecticut Humane Society (CHS) urging immediate financial oversight improvements and other reforms to avoid conflicts of interest by CHS Board members.
Blumenthal also suggested that the CHS Board release sufficient financial resources to meet its core animal care responsibilities, and that it conduct a thorough review of its practices and policies to address pervasive complaints of mismanagement, problems in animal care, and unfair and hostile treatment of employees.
Blumenthal’s ongoing investigation into allegations of misuse of charitable funds and resources has preliminarily found that CHS entered into financial transactions with businesses in which CHS Board members have a financial interest, and that oversight was compromised by the fact that one man served both as president of CHS and chairman of its Board.
The investigation has also found that CHS aggressively restricts a majority of its $52 million fund balance, potentially constraining CHS’ ability to fulfill its charitable mission of protecting animals within its care.
Blumenthal issued the interim report to provide CHS guidance as it transitions from the troubled leadership of Richard Johnston, who recently resigned as the president and chairman of the CHS Board of Directors. A broad range of allegations involve Johnston, including that charitable funds and resources were misused for personal and his own political purposes, and that Johnston had created an abusive and dysfunctional atmosphere at CHS.
“Lack of leadership is causing the Connecticut Humane Society to fail its core charitable purpose — providing care and stopping cruelty to animals,” Blumenthal said. “The Connecticut Humane Society now has a historic opportunity and obligation to revive and reenergize its leadership. Very simply, it must spend more on animal care, stop apparent conflicts of interest and respect views and rights of workers and volunteers.
“The Connecticut Humane Society cannot protect its animals without protecting its funds and resources. Even as our investigation continues, we urge the CHS Board to seize this opportunity — the resignation of its president and Board chairman — to reform its practices and renew its commitment to fulfill its critical charitable mission.
“The Connecticut Humane Society’s mission to protect animals requires sound financial management, a cohesive work environment and protections against conflicts of interest — real or perceived. We are recommending reforms vital to preserving public trust in this important charity.”
Even as his investigation continues, Blumenthal recommends that the CHS Board take immediate action, including:
· Strengthen its conflict of interest policy, specifically concerning CHS contracts and purchases that may benefit board members or relatives;
· Release sufficient funds to address immediate animal welfare needs of animals brought to CHS; and
· Internally review and address all allegations and adverse management issues outlined in the preliminary investigative report.
Blumenthal said his office also plans to refer to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allegations of interference with the attempt by CHS employees to unionize.