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.
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.
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.
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.