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Lopez, Pereira Shoot Jump Shots For Bagley, Jeopardize New High School To Replace Harding

February 13th, 2014 · 25 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Development and Zoning, Education

new Harding rendering

Rendering of new high school.

The Working Families Party alliance that controls the Board of Education is doing all it can to torpedo a new city high school slated for construction on GE property on Boston Avenue. They say the site of a former munitions factory is too dirty, irrespective of the fact site must be cleaned to residential standards approved by state environmental inspectors and financed largely by GE. This is the same alliance that claims the Board of Education is more qualified to supervise security in schools than the Police Department. Translation: if Mayor Bill Finch and outgoing school chief Paul Vallas have anything to do with it, we’re against it (even if it’s good for the city).

Tuesday night at a school board committee meeting that scenario played out as school board member John Bagley, the former NBA hoop star, allowed his political coalition to take his jump shots, ceding the floor to the alliance that provides talking points, retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez and Bridgeport Working Families Party chief Maria Pereira, a former school board member. Lopez is an expert at appealing to citizens emotions and Periera has learned a lot under her tutelage. Pereira has also become a potent political organizer. Lopez is also not afraid to seek court intervention, sometimes winning and sometimes not. And this issue may very well serve her once again as a court test.

John Bagley

School board member John “Bags” Bagley allows political associates to take shots for him.

Fact is any other site for a new high school in Bridgeport, including the current Harding location, is going to have remediation challenges. It’s the nature of an old industrial city. Those sites as well would need to be cleaned to residential standards. Harding High School, built about 90 years ago along Central Avenue a few blocks from the proposed GE Boston Avenue site, is a disgraceful learning environment for students and work environment for teachers. Whether Harding, Central or Bassick high schools, city students segue from modern middle school facilities into medieval madness.

Baraka, Pereira

School board president Sauda Baraka, left, and former school board member Maria Pereira craft talking points for Bags.

Tuesday night the school board committee Bagley chairs tabled the matter involving the proposed location for a new high school. Opponents to the location will demagogue the Boston Avenue property as the city’s version of Love Canal, until they get their way. Meanwhile the city will lose out on an opportunity–with the money in place for residential standard remediation–for a modern facility to replace Harding.

Carmen Lopez

Carmen Lopez, the Working Families Party legal mind. CT Post photo.

Again, what’s the problem with the Boston Avenue location as long as it’s cleaned to residential standards?

Finch issued this statement prior to Tuesday night’s meeting:

“The students of the East Side and East End have waited a long time for a new high school. This planned new high school would provide students with a state-of-the-art environment that would allow them to gain the knowledge necessary to compete in the 21st century economy, and would include an up-to-date athletic complex with full-size baseball and football fields, providing an enhancement to the school and surrounding neighborhood.

“We have an opportunity to build a brand new high school that would be a significant improvement from the current school with a funding formula that is beneficial to the City. The desired location for the high school, which will be cleaned to residential standards at no cost to the taxpayer, is just a short walk away from the current school, which would not at all disrupt the Harding community by forcing students to go to school in an entirely different neighborhood.”

Lopez and Pereira are welcome to share statements as well.

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25 Comments so far ↓

  • BOE SPY

    The ‘toxic waste’ identified at the meeting was said to be lead (like the lead in the paint on your walls), oil residue (like the oil residue in the floor of your garage) and arsenic from the coal-burning furnaces the plant used to have. The Waste cleanup professional and the DEEP categorized the waste hazard as a 2 on a scale of 1-10, saying ‘as long as you do not eat it, you will be OK.’ Once the site is remediated the issue will be moot. The meeting was not even supposed to be open for public comment. No public comment was advertised in the meeting announcement. Yet somehow, some of the people had research and speeches prepared. It was like they were secretly ‘tipped off’ that public comment would be allowed. This left everyone else at an unfair disadvantage. Once the commenting started it was an onslaught of WFP lackeys with their prepared scripts in hand. It was not clear if they wrote the stuff themselves or they were reading someone else’s work. They were little more than a group of bullies and thugs who said their piece and shouted down and insulted anyone who was not part of their agenda. One fellow even commented about his time in prison. You did not want to talk when that guy was talking. Not the kind of ‘open public forum’ one would expect from the open public forum, community participation party.
    At least the teachers got their 8.6% raises and only have to pay 19% of the health insurance premium co-pay. Everyone else in the city is getting a 4% decrease (10 furlough days) and pays 25% health insurance premium co-pay (50% for new hires). Not bad for managing to maintain a 60% dropout rate. The BEA spent their money wisely when they bought the WFP.
    Like it says in the commercial:
    www .youtube.com/watch?v=mWBJME5JCtc
    In Connecticut, every day begins with one word. What will your taxes do? What will unemployment do? What will the dropout rate do? Rise.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Good, well-made points, BOE SPY.

      “… At least the teachers got their 8.6% raises and only have to pay 19% of the health insurance premium co-pay. Everyone else in the city is getting a 4% decrease (10 furlough days) and pays 25% health insurance premium co-pay (50% for new hires) …”

      I know the teachers deserve what they got. But what will the NAGE BOE employees get compared to the NAGE City Employees? BOE SPY, care to comment on the days worked by teachers compared to the likes of us?

      • BOE SPY

        BOE and city employees have the same contract. Their is no difference. All security and maintenance are under the city. BOE have some secretaries, aids and nut center employees who are NAGE and 1522 but not many. In the past BOE NAGE could be laid off by the city and/or the BOE, depending on which one needed to save money at the time. That was one reason the BOE was upset with the mayor for giving 1522 a ‘no-layoff’ clause with their last contract. BOE wanted to layoff janitresses. City guys were always safer. Only the poor city budgeting could lay them off.

  • Lifelong Bpt

    In addition to the Harding School issue, the WFP BOE (that’s basically what they are) are also looking to undo the partnerships with the BPT Police Dept and Bridgeport Public works. These are two partnerships that have benefited the city and the school system. If there are issues within those programs, then fix the issues but do not scrap the programs.
    When the “Finch-controlled” BOE was the majority, they took heat for almost every action and political tactic. It is now time to bring that same scrutiny to the current majority and their decisions and tactics. Imagine the outcry if Moales or Kelleher would have allowed public speaking at a committee meeting. And I’m sorry, but Bagley is looking more and more like a puppet every day … and Lopez and Pereira are his Geppetto.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    When I was on the City Council, we had to decide whether or not to build the Bluefish Stadium on the Jenkins Valve site. The contamination was heavy but the City played down the level of contamination. I once asked Dennis Murphy the cost of the remediation and he stated it would be $1 million tops. When the feds cleaned up (not really) City Hall the truth came out. Not only did it cost more than a million, the dirt was improperly dumped in other places, they skimmed money off the top. When the digging started, gravestones and bones were found. We were told it was just one stone and parts of one body. There was more and they just kept digging and kept it quiet. Last year, the City purchased heavily contaminated land from Mark IV construction located across from the Pleasure beach Bridge.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      The level of contamination again was downplayed, but the council again decided to believe the same City Attorney (Mark A). No mention of the contamination was ever mentioned until I raised this on this blog. Lennie, take a look at the picture of the land and notice the lake next to it. What’s the contamination in the lake? Bill Finch knows the answer as this was discussed when we were all on the City Council. Clean the land and the water from the lake will contaminated again. Stop falling for their bullshit. What’s up with the School Building Committee, Lennie? Who sits on this committee and where are the documents of meeting discussions? Was the lake mentioned? This is the Finchy Lake Show.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Off topic:
    There’s a primary coming and we are working. I called the Town Clerk for information and clarification on a question. I dialed 203-576-7207 and I’m getting an answering machine. Call this number if you are one of those who say “Joel is full of shit.”

    • Joel Gonzalez

      The recording doesn’t even tell you who you’re calling. Is this the number to the City of Bridgeport Town Clerk’s Office? Is there another number/ext I can call?

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I know we need a new high school, but there has to be a better location than the GE site. The city is made up of 17 acres, if we keep using industrial zoned land for parks and schools what’s left?
    I realize none of the past administrations have really done much to bring in new businesses and jobs but someday it might happen and when it does where will the land come from to houses these new businesses?
    I will tell you this, screw Lopez, screw Pereira and screw the school board. How does this ongoing bullshit help the kids get an education and get ready for the working world? Building new schools is a temporary way of distracting people away from the fact the school curriculum sucks. I want one freaking educator to tell me in math why my grandchild needs to explain why 2 plus 2 equals 4. This math is bullshit and teaches the kids squat.

  • barry soitera

    WFP are radicals. More radical than your average commie Democrat. They are Bill DeBlasio Cuban/Sandinista, far left, Obama-loving Democrats. A scary group.

    • Bond Girl

      I think some of them (not all) are just as self-interested and power hungry as the folks they have replaced and want to replace in the future.

      If we are not careful what we wish for, and then bring into manifestation, we may be saddled with a NEW “machine” that is more knee-jerk than the OLD “machine.”

      • Godiva2011

        Agreed, this is the worst-case scenario and it’s a full-scale power play. What a shame for the Bridgeport students, the very same ones whose education they vowed to put first on their agenda. Seemingly not.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Last evening I attended the BOE Finance meeting in Room 305 that was to run from 5-6:30 PM to be followed by a Facilities meeting. CFO Marlene Siegel moved through multiple spreadsheets showing how operating budget and grants budget monies fund the positions, services, and goods used by the schools. The budget is balanced assuming the full MBR for 2013 is funded as set out by the State and the City agree to fund the 2014-15 MBR by signing a letter of agreement today.

    Maybe one of these days these Committee meetings can be not only posted on the Schools site and calendar, but also have an agenda indicated. There were only two or three members of the public present for the Finance meeting and none of us spoke or asked to be recognized.

    By 5:30 PM the room was full and the hallway held at least 100 more people. Was the Facilities meeting only about Harding? How many people spoke and what were the points made? Was reference made to the remediation efforts in recent years to Madison School (finally completed) and those planned for Longfellow? Experts on remediating building materials as well as soils on site have worked on these to the after-satisfaction of those communities it seems. What is so special about the potential difficulties in remediating to residential standards the Harding site?

    The School Building Committee meets monthly and is chaired by Councilman Holloway. He is joined by Council members Martinez and Banta. I am not sure who the BOE representatives are but perhaps Illingworth and Baker as I have seen them at same recently.

    School Building Committee meetings have not been placed on the City calendar either and the minutes have been stored with Contract Management Services. I have suggested the material more appropriately belongs in the City Clerk office as with many other Boards and Commissions. There is some movement towards that. Time will tell.

    • BOE SPY

      Oddly enough, most of the people at the meeting were there to discuss who would be in charge of the Facilities Dept., the city or the BOE. This did not stop Maria Pereira’s paranoia from running away with her. She voiced claims all the people were at the meeting for Harding and Jorge Garcia ordered them to be there. In reality, that was just crazy talk. The new Harding discussion took so long all the other issues were tabled for another time. Only the WFP people were recognized by the chair and given a chance to speak. The DEEP and the remediation manager made presentations. They said the site had no special considerations and could easily be cleaned, just as many others sites in the state have been. They were berated and basically called liars by the new Harding detractors. In other words, they wasted a lot of time and got nothing done. I am assuming they already made up their minds to torpedo the new Harding.

  • anna

    Bagley should place a bag over his head. Such leadership.

    • Jimfox

      Maybe John can use your BAG, anna?
      Oh I’m sorry, it’s still up the Mayor’s ASS.

      “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

      • Lifelong Bpt

        Jim, thanks for your constructive feedback. This is not about he who is without sin, this is about the WFP being all about their personal agenda, Bagley’s lack of leadership and the WFP doing all of the underhanded, abusive tactics of the former “Finch” BOE and having their actions condoned by their supporters, just a new group of yes-people for the new power.

      • LennieGrimaldi

        Simon says … Sonny Fox never cast the first stone! How’s life on the town committee campaign trail? Good day to build a political igloo. Give us an update.

      • Godiva2011

        Are you without sin, Mr. Fox? Because you just cast a stone, or was that a boulder?

  • Godiva2011

    This group of WFP operatives are a sick lot. So much for making change; indeed they have made a change–for the worse. No concern for the students, just their own political agendas. Lopez should be ashamed of herself and the rest of the WFP lemmings on the board are just an abomination. I said it before and I’ll say it again–watch out for what you wish for, and here you have it. So now what?

  • Mojo

    ** THIS IS NORMAL FOR BPT’s BOE, AND PART OF THE REASON PUBLIC SCHOOL KIDS CONTINUE TO FAIL YEAR AFTER YEAR, NO? **

  • CT Taxpayer

    Elsewhere on this blog I asked a question after I left a posting that reminds people a new building alone isn’t going to make Harding an effective school. Significant improvement will require many programmatic, organizational, staffing and other changes, but the politicians are presenting us with the shiny object that will distract us from the real issues, one of which is adequate and consistent funding, as well as sound leadership at all levels of the educational system.

    It has been rumored the current Harding campus would be an ideal location for the expansion of Bridgeport Hospital, and I wonder if that is the real issue because across the city is Bassick High School, a school that has a facility that is every bit as bad as Harding’s, a school that has a dropout rate, student attendance rate, student test scores, student graduation rate, etc., every bit as bad as those at Harding. Furthermore, Bassick is on a postage stamp-sized plot of land that has no room for any athletic facilities at all.

    Mr. Vallas had proudly announced there will be a new Harding High School, and he had somewhat less proudly announced Bassick High School will be renovated. How can it be Harding requires an entirely new building on a new campus, but Bassick will have to do with a fixed-up version of its current facilities and no more land than it currently has? Can it be because Harding has a more vocal and politically powerful constituency? I hope that isn’t the case because all students should be valued. Can it be for some other reason I don’t understand?

    The question to which I referred at the beginning of this posting is one that asked how the above makes sense. So far, no one has ventured even a guess at a possible rationale.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Finch wants to make his bones with Bridgeport Hospital thus the new Harding is on the fast track and Bassick gets bullshit.
    Am I wrong when I say Harding is made up of a majority of black students and Bassick is made up of mostly Hispanic students? Does anyone see anything wrong with this? Where are the Hispanic leaders; oops I forgot, they have to check with Americo before they speak up.

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