Newly named Board of Education chairman Dave Hennessey and the newest member of the school board Kadisha Coates who supported his election Monday night, joined Mayor Bill Finch and interim Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz at Wilbur Cross School on Thursday to celebrate the city’s awarding of $4.5 million in federal funds for 180 new pre-K seats.
In total the U.S. Department of Education awarded Connecticut $12.5 million this week for 428 pre-k slots, and an additional 284 kids to higher-quality pre-k programs, according to a joint news release issued by Finch and Rabinowitz. Bridgeport received the largest share of the funds.
The grant will likely be available for Bridgeport kids in the 2015-16 school year, according to officials.
“Currently, more than one in four kids that are eligible for pre-K in Bridgeport do not have access,” says Rabinowitz in the news release. “That’s unacceptable. But thanks to these new seats, we’re moving one step closer to achieving the goal of universal pre-K for kids. It’s another example of how Bridgeport schools are getting better every day.”
“Getting better every day” happens to be the theme of a taxpayer-paid marketing campaign recently launched by the mayor’s office.
Last year Hennessey joined Andre Baker and Howard Gardner to defeat the three Finch-backed Democratic candidates for school board. Finch political operatives tapped Coates, who is like-minded with Finch in support of charter schools, to replace John Bagley who resigned from the school board after he won a seat running on the Working Families Party line in 2012.
The balance of power on the school board has shifted back and forth the past two years. When it comes to education issues, Finch has taken his lumps at the ballot box in recent years losing a charter revision question to grant him the power to appoint school board members, as well as the defeat of the Democratic endorsed candidates last year. Yet, it appears that Finch has found some common ground with the new makeup of the board in support of some of his education initiatives including construction of a new Harding High School on Boston Avenue property owned by General Electric, the site of a former munitions factory that requires extensive remediation.