Martinez: Shatter Inequality In City Schools

Martinez with son
Jessica Martinez with son Jose.

In a commentary that also appears in Education Connecticut, newly elected Board of Education member Jessica Martinez shares why she ran and what she hopes to accomplish.

Today, I am extremely honored to announce that I have been elected to the Bridgeport Board of Education. I am eager for the opportunity to represent all parents and students in Bridgeport, and I hope to be an advocate for our community as we move the district forward.

In Bridgeport, we are chartering a new path–a path that values the voices of families in our community. We have worked hard to ensure we will be heard, but the work does not stop here. We still have a long way to go. But this is a fight worth fighting because if our efforts are successful, our students will be successful, in the classroom and in life.

I know what our students can achieve if given access to the right tools. I have seen firsthand the inequality in our school system, perpetuated by broken, outdated policies that only serve as obstacles preventing student achievement. And I think it is unacceptable that schools in the City of Bridgeport–and throughout the State of Connecticut–continue to perpetuate a system that increases inequality.

That’s why I ran for Bridgeport Board of Education. It’s also why I’m a Plaintiff in the case, Martinez v. Malloy. Filed on behalf of myself, my son, and other Connecticut families with the help of the national nonprofit organization Students Matter, Martinez v. Malloy seeks to challenge anti-opportunity laws that limit the opening of new public schools and cap the enrollment at existing excellent public schools. These policies harm thousands of students, including my son, who has remained on a waitlist for a magnet school year after year.

As both a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education and a Plaintiff in Martinez v. Malloy–I will continue to be a voice for parents in Bridgeport and across the state who are demanding answers for a broken system. I will work to prevent our district and our state from continuing policies that hurt students of color and students from low-income families and completely disregard our children’s right to a great public education.

It is time for Bridgeport and for the State of Connecticut to do more to ensure every student across the state has access to great schools. I am honored–and eager–to be a leader in this effort.



  1. Congratulation Jessica on your being elected to the BBOE and I wish you good luck in this new endeavor. I think you’ll do well because your son’s academic future depends on your involvement and actions. I am constantly told on this form that because I no longer live in the city my opinion no longer matters, but the same can be said about individuals that no longer have children in the Bridgeport school system. These individuals have nothing to lose by bogging down the system with arguments and dissent while the children of Bridgeport continue to suffer academically and they don’t have children in the system that this behavior hurts.

    But I digress, again congratulations on your success and remember our children depend upon you and the other members of the BBOE for their academic future.

    1. I have lived in Bridgeport for 20+ years and I have never had children in the school system. But one of the things that keep property values low is the school system. As a homeowner I would love the school to be flourishing as that would help my value. If people do not see this correlation, we are even more doomed.

    2. I have lived in Bridgeport for seventeen years, have no choldren in the public school system. Not that it matters. I love this town, the people that live here. Bridgeport is a uniquely American melting pot. This city is a jewel, a bit tarnished from political neglect but still a jewel.

      Unfortunately local politics is played fir the benefit if a few at the expense of the many. That includes the Board of Education. If there were irregularities in the counting of ballots that should be investigated by the state agency charged with electoral oversight. While that is going on the newly minted BBOE must learn to sit at the same table and agree the only item in the agenda is improving the quality of education for the school children of the city of Bridgeport. BPS is so dysfunctional high school seniors are graduated with only the most rudimentary skills to compete in a world changing day to day.

  2. There are two Bridgeport candidates who are running to become of governor of Connecticut, Republican David Walker and Mayor Joe Ganim and I have not read or seen anything on how they as governor will fund and upgrade the education of the students of Bridgeport and especially students of color and students from low-income families in Connecticut.

  3. There is a poster in some teacher office / break rooms in Bridgeport public schools with a message for teachers.

    It reminds teachers that they may be the most stable adult in their students’ lives.

    That is why students are failing to thrive in the Bridgeport public school system.

  4. To Mackey, et al. I understand it to mean that teachers must be prepared to offer stability as an adult in a student’s life, perhaps to compensate for the unstable environment many come from resulting from poor parenting.

    Now, let’s see if Mackey has one his ‘afrocentric’ explanations.

  5. Tom, you’re of the mindset that there are an abundant of parents that don’t take an active role in their children’s education, but that just shows your ignorance and your animus toward Blacks specifically. Uncaring parents are just like uncaring students, they are the exception and not the rule in Bridgeport schools.

    I’m absolutely sure you don’t demonize all white people who are involved in the opioid crisis or demonize all white males that shoot up churches and schools because both are the domain of white people. I’m sure that you say that those are just individuals and not the entire white race as a whole and are individual white people with a problem, yet you want to demonize the whole Black community as non-caring parents. C’mon man you appear to be somewhat intelligent yet you demonstrate by your words that you are either ignorant as hell or your classic bigot. You make the choice.

    1. I have to take exception here. I’ve written about Bridgeport’ school kids lacking oarental interest in their educations. I never ever said it was specific to any ethnic community. It is a citywide problem that crosses every ethnic, social and economic line.

      1. Derek, C’mon Man, you know over 80% black and Hispanic so let’s be honest here. What type of employment is there for high school graduates in Bridgeport? What type of career possible are there for these students? During Mayor Ganim (JG1) term in office the City was able to hire a number of these Bridgeport students to become police officers and firefighters but all of that stop once Bill Finch became mayor and putting David Dunn as the Acting Personnel Director who changed the testing and hiring process. During the past 8 years that Dunn has been giving firefighter exams the number of blacks and Hispanic Bridgeport residents has drop and the City has NOT hired ANY females of any race, not one and Mayor Ganim is well aware of this and Mayor Ganim has done absolutely nothing.

    2. Guys,
      It appears to me that White offered an interpretation of the saying that does not rely on a racial interpretation. And Ron did not respond, perhaps he is in agreement.
      But Donald, you say that “uncaring parents are an exception in Bridgeport schools”. Challenge that offering on your part because of attendance by parents at school gatherings. Most schools have too few showing up routinely to constitute active organizations of support for school.

      Of more importance is that “uncaring” may more importantly be assigned to the behavior of the adult family members of those same students who fail to use their registrations to vote. What to do about their refusal to participate in this vital municipal governance exercise routinely? How else do you put pressure on State representatives to pressure Hartford? To make known to Council reps. that the constituents are unhappy with Ganim2 priorities for education? Time will tell.

  6. Here is the challenge for education of students in Bridgeport.

    Homelessness in Coastal Fairfield County:

    Many families today describe themselves as living on the edge. A medical bill, job layoff or other unexpected circumstance can result in an immediate plunge from poverty to homelessness.

    On any given night, over 1,000 people are homeless on the streets of Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, and there are more than 200 homeless people in Bridgeport’s downtown area.

    37.6 percent of children in Bridgeport live below the poverty line.

    16.2 percent of families in Bridgeport live below the poverty line.

    18.4 percent of individuals in Bridgeport live below the poverty line.

    *; Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness; Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition; State of Homelessness in America

  7. In Connecticut, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,285,. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing — a household must earn $4,285 monthly or $51,420 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of $24.72.

    The minimum wage in Connecticut is $9.60 which means a person would need to work just over two-and-a-half full-time jobs (2.6 full-time jobs, or more than 100 hours per week) to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Bridgeport.

    Keeping this in mind how many parent’s have the time to go to parent teacher meetings and further what is the percentage of parents in the Westport of Fairfield school districts that go to these meetings? Bridgeport parent’s are forced to choose between one or two low paying jobs or a parent teachers meeting. Bridgeport parent’s shouldn’t have to decide if putting food on the stove or a roof over their children’s head is more important than a parent’s teacher meeting. I think it’s disingenuous on the part of you rich white people to suggest anything otherwise.

  8. Ron and Don,
    Great statistics..
    How about telling me how many parents, guardians, family members (all of these assumed adults) are caring for the 21,000 kids in the schools? How many of these manage to spend any time becoming informed about why their votes are necessary to make changes in how money is spent? Becoming informed (however that is done….obviously some folks are using Bridgeport Library and support it) and going to the polls to vote? Time to do that? You did not mention it Don, instead turned it into a racial and class issue, didn’t you? By the way someone with a check from a guaranteed PENSION for 20-25 years of service and maybe Social Security and 401K from other years of work, and some money from family or a business started, or regular savings and investing over the years might be part of that “rich” group you call out, once you begin your definitions? Time will tell.

  9. Well I’m not the one saying because a parent don’t go to PTA meetings that they somehow aren’t good parents or want less for their children academically. I was that parent that worked numerous jobs to support my children and family. I didn’t have the time to go to these meetings because I was putting out fires, driving a school bus, driving a limo and being a private investigator, all simultaneously. But we aren’t talking about my pension and my SSI we’re talking about you rich white people telling financially struggling families the state of their children’s education is somehow their fault because they aren’t doing what rich white people think they should be doing.

    How dare you perpetuate your snobbery on those that have less than you. Try going to bed hungry because you have to make sure that your children don’t. Try having to worry about paying your exorbitant rent in a less than desirable neighborhood to live every single month of your life. Try worrying about keeping the electric, water and gas on with one or two $10 per hour jobs every single month of your life. Try worrying about how you’re going to get the things your children need for school, for life and for dealing with the everyday world. Worrying every single day of your life trying to see that your children have the basics of life. And now you have some rich white guy that is replete with pomposity telling you that your behavior, trying to take care of your family the best you can makes you a bad parent or less than stellar citizen because he feels that going to PTA meetings or to vote is more important that providing for your family.

    Black folks don’t need you to tell them what’s broken in their lives, they need you to tell Mayor Ganim and city council that sending millions and millions of dollars out of the city with people that dont live here while the ones that do live here are stuck in abject poverty. It appears as if you’ve learned absolutely nothing from hanging with your pals in the NAACP and may I suggest that a little empathy would go a long way in your quest for understanding the Black condition in Bridgeport, Connecticut and America.

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