Lee To Council: Use The Unanticipated State Money To Reinstate The Laid-off Kindergarten Paraprofessionals

Tuesday night citizen fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee asked the City Council to allocate the recent unanticipated and therefore not yet budgeted State Municipal Revenue Sharing to the BOE to reinstate the laid-off paraprofessionals. “… think instead of a five-year-old girl or boy standing here in their third week of school in Bridgeport without the same advantages they likely would enjoy were they living in neighboring towns. You have the opportunity to give them a fair and strong start to their educational career. Will you act on it so reading, writing, math and respect are received by them in full measure this year? In justice, can you do otherwise?”

Lee’s full commentary:

Bridgeport City Council members,
You have listened to me for over six months about these two red boots. The one marked BS stands for the underwater net worth of the City. Our liabilities still exceed our assets. That needs more attention.

The other red boot marked OB stands for the operating budget that ended FY2016 with a negative balance in the millions of dollars. Tonight this boot enters the third month of a year in surplus for a change and I plead for you to seize that opportunity.

I want you to hear a plea you have the power to answer. It comes from the educational front lines here in Bridgeport elementary schools. It is about providing justice and a fair start to any five-year-old youngster, who may have been born to a family here in Bridgeport where English is not the primary language spoken at home and thus vocabulary words common to your homes are not often spoken in their presence. The family may have been unaware of pre-kindergarten opportunities or how to afford like 1/3 of those entering kindergarten three weeks ago were. The children may be away from patterns of home and family for the first time in their short lives and we might say they are young and unsocialized. How do they settle down for learning? And they may know no alphabet symbols or sounds. How are they to read at the end of this first school year to a certain level as they proceed to first grade?

Well when they are afforded the opportunity of expert assessment early on, and the Kindergarten teacher is supported by a paraprofessional who daily reinforces the lessons, as well as a literacy interventionist who brings expertise and talent to the team, it can and does happen. However, this year for reasons that faced the Board of Education, all those paraprofessionals were cut. Their union did not hold a vote to allow them to signal a willingness to furlough. And the BEA union did not allow teachers to share their own willingness to assist in this work either. So dollars were cut. And people were cut.

Paras who served as a warm and caring continuum of love from home and providers of alphabet instruction through skill development and reading direction are not present in the schools this year. It is noticeable. Socialization and other responsibilities so well practiced in recent years are missing this year, so far.

But that is not the end of the story. You have a special chance to be a hero for justice. State money in excess of what you budgeted in the spring has already flowed into the City in August in the Municipal Revenue Sharing of Regional Sales Taxes. You approved $9.8 Million and Ken Flatto raised that projection by $6 Million to $15.8 Million in July. Actually over $12 Million was received in August by the City. The money is here and it has not been earmarked in B&A discussion earlier this month. (B&A is busy looking at the Mayor’s Capital Funding proposal some of which is on your Agenda for decision tonight, though not the $18 Million additional borrowing sought to benefit downtown.)

For all the BOE activity in the news, their Committees meet and Finance has prioritized a way to address any funding opportunities that may arise. That is where you are tonight.

When you hear Howard Gardner later this session, think instead of a five-year-old girl or boy standing here in their third week of school in Bridgeport without the same advantages they likely would enjoy were they living in neighboring towns. You have the opportunity to give them a fair and strong start to their educational career. Will you act on it so reading, writing, math and respect are received by them in full measure this year? In justice, can you do otherwise? Time will tell.

John Marshall Lee
September 20, 2016



  1. This Watchdog won’t hunt?


    Section 2. – Annual report of mayor.
    In September of each year, the Mayor shall present an annual report showing the situation of the government, finances and improvements of the city of this chapter, to the city council. The annual reports of all administrative city officers and boards, shall be made to the Mayor on or before the fifteenth day of August in each year.


  2. This is an opportunity for the CC members to step up to the plate and exercise their authority and responsibility by demanding that additional funds be channeled into the BOE budget for purposes suggested by JML. If the body does nothing else, they will be the heroes who will help prepare the innocent children in our public school system so that can enjoy the same social and educational benefits as our neighboring cities and town. This is a justifiable matter that I believe every member will join together to accomplish. With all the confusion surrounding the BOE, please step up, show you’re all ready to be leaders in your own right, your voice is powerful, agree to make it in harmony with one another and the feeling of accomplishment will be the greatest feeling of achievement, please make us proud!

  3. Published reports suggest that kindergarten para funding will be restored when adjustments in bus transportation are made.
    As JML suggests, this could be an opportunity for the city council to make a statement. Given the liberal use of a consent calendar for their votes, they probably have no recollection or understanding of the action they took to acknowledge the revenue sharing adjustment. That aside, they could craft a simple communication to communicate their endorsement of what JML is suggesting.
    The next hurdle is to verify the BOE is willing to accept and execute this arrangement. Let’s see if any CC members look into doing this and follows through.

  4. Howard Gardner spoke before the City Council as well. Sauda, myself and several parents stood with him.

    The City has received $12 million that was not part of the budget, which included $4 million for the property sale to Sacred Heart, $2 million for the sale of waterfront property for Stealpointe, and now another $6 million in state sales tax revenue, yet the BOE remains completely flatfunded.

    1. For the sake of accuracy about funds and so accountability from the public stays on target, I believe what Maria is reporting are two sales of City-owned property. At least one of them, Sacred Heart, was reported as being booked for the City FY ending June 30 2016. Sales of City property have been budgeted at low levels in recent years and have often been lower in actual practice. The proper handling of such funds according to the Finch “budget process” was to split the funds into two parts and use one for operating and the other half to increase the City Fund Balance. The suspicion is the entire land sale proceeds went to offset the deficit of Finch’s last year where ignoring some major expense and over-projecting revenues contributed to the crisis. So at year end, those revenues from land sales were likely applied to paying bills, like public safety pension plans.
      The kids did get ignored. That is why two people spoke last Tuesday evening. If the FY2017 budget already shows evidence of conservative revenue projection of regional Sales Tax Revenue Sharing, then it is wonderful news. Put the paraprofessionals back in the classroom process, and guidance counselors where they are required, and let Lennie continue his romance with the Sangiovese grape. Time will tell.

  5. How in hell do you cancel a meeting four (4) days prior to said meeting with the excuse you don’t have a quorum? C’mon people, the children of Bridgeport deserve better than this crap.

    The dissenting members of the Bridgeport Board of Education, along with the Interim Superintendent, again cancelled our regular board meeting, for a bogus lack of quorum. I will be showing up for the meeting that is scheduled on Monday, September 26, 2016, at 6:30pm.

    These obstructionists have no authority to stop the business of this district; they are derelict in their duty and abdicating their responsibilities per CGS and the oath they took.

    These are tactics only individuals who uphold the ideals of candidate Trump, destruction of our country’s democratic process through the lack of morals and standards and sheer hate.

    1. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” Italy?


  6. I’m eating a boring lunch right now. I don’t even have a glass of Gallo Burgundy handy. You’re trying to make us jealous, Lennie. (There haven’t even been any serious blog squabbles. Relax! Have a great time!)

      1. Ron,
        We have never been able to meet over a cup of coffee. I take it a glass of quality Sangiovese is something to your liking, as a preface to a serious City discussion? Perhaps you might be open to an invitation to ‘a glass of red,’ some cheese, olives and bread with? Why didn’t you let on? Time will tell.

  7. This meeting would be a perfect opportunity for CW4BB to show up and show out. Those allies across color lines they are looking for can see it’s more than a bunch of rich white people who are concerned about their taxes. I think it would go a long way for blacks and Puerto Ricans to see the Black Rock community is also interested in the well-being of their children, not just how much taxes they have to pay. Just saying.

      1. Sorry Tom, my wife and I will be in Washington for the opening of the African American Museum. Next year we’ll be in Greece for 11 days, all on the firefighters pension you alluded to. Oh shit, did I mention my wife works and makes six figures? I married rich, NICE.

        1. The museum is getting great reviews, please let us know your opinion. Greece, excellent reviews for centuries. Happy always to see you enjoying life, nothing like living the dream; is there, Donald?

        2. Good for you, Donald; and I’m sure your wife earns every dollar of what she earns, as you earned every dollar of your pension. Tom, you’re such a nice, gentle soul; that wasn’t nice.

  8. Donald: That is an excellent idea. That would be the first step toward creating resonance/cooperation between the disparate city activist groups. Education and taxes are definitely related. Maybe the environmentalists concerned with O&G can also show up.. And the public safety/community policing advocates, also concerned with education and taxes (of course). And so on and so forth, with the various groups supporting/resonating with each other. That is how the stuff of Movements begins to gel and take form.

    1. Now that’s open and transparent government at work, oh I’m sorry but the mayor, his spokesman and the police chief forgot to inform the public. Now who will be punished for this failure? Tell will tell (JML).

  9. The Phantom will blame it on Maria for getting rid of the SRO’s. The administration will blame it on the unions for not giving up enough in concessions. Perez will blame it on drug gangs because he blames everything on drug gangs. The police union will blame it on Gaudett because they blame everything on Gaudett.
    And that’s the blame game.

  10. I got word from a variety of reliable sources Ganim and Rabinowitz are trying to organize the unions to call for my resignation.

    All this effort for me. LOL!


    1. Maria, the more focus they place on you, the stronger they make you. Eventually the public will get disgusted with the overkill, and well let’s not forget Finch’s over-the-top negative ads. My opinion regarding Fran R. remains the same until otherwise proven wrong, every day that goes by without a search for her replacement being acted on, her visits to the bank continue.

      1. Lisa, you are so right especially when you said, “Maria, the more focus they place on you, the stronger they make you.” Once again Lisa, Maria doesn’t have to fight back and make a comment every time someone attacks her, she doesn’t have to defend herself because at times that makes things worse. There others who will join in and defend her but she has to trust people.

  11. The city needs the money to replace the SUV that was stolen. (Bridgeport officials didn’t even know it was missing until a police department in Kentucky called and said “We’ve got your vehicle.”)

  12. This whole story of the stolen/missing Mayoral vehicle is emblematic of the Ganim Administration. They just don’t know what is going on. And worse, I don’t think they even care.


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