Parent Leader Criticizes Selection Of New School Board Member

In a commentary that first appeared in the Connecticut Post, Parent Advisory Council President Tammy Boyle writes in opposition to new school board member Kadisha Coates claiming school board members Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker’s “support of charter school parent and advocate Coates was a stunning betrayal of the commitments they made to BPS parents.” From Boyle:

As a Bridgeport public school parent, I felt compelled to write this letter in response to the outrageous selection of Kadisha Coates as the newest member of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Coates is a vocal charter school parent and advocate who testified at both a local charter school hearing earlier this year and at a  State Board of Education hearing in support of adding two additional charter schools in Bridgeport.

Board member Kenneth Moales Jr. is identified as a governing council member in the application submitted by Dr. Steve Perry for yet another charter school slated to open in 2015.

When he served as chair of the BBOE he should have been the staunchest proponent of our true public schools. However, he chose instead to repeatedly denigrate the Bridgeport Public Schools, parents, teachers and staff. Therefore his vote to support charter school parent Coates came as no surprise.

Hernan Illingworth is the former District Parent Advisory Council president and at one time was the elected leader who represented approximately 30,000 BPS parents. However, today he is often viewed as an opponent of the very parents and organization that he once represented. In his capacity as a BBOE member, he frequently demonstrates disdain for the PAC and its leadership. Therefore his vote for Coates was not surprising either.

Joe Lasrcheveque, the lone Republican on the BBOE, has two children at Black Rock School  and recently enrolled his oldest son at Park City Prep Charter School. His wife, Anne, recently won election to the Democratic Town Committee and is a staunch supporter of Mayor Bill Finch. It is rumored that Finch has been working for months to obtain enough BBOE votes to place his Republican ally in the role of BBOE chairman in December. Therefore his vote for Coates was expected as well.

The votes in support of Coates that were truly shocking were those of Andre Baker and Dave Hennessey. These two BBOE members who so many BPS parents volunteered to help elect and voted for chose to betray those who worked tirelessly to help them get elected.

Their votes in support of charter school parent and advocate Coates was a stunning betrayal of the commitments they made to BPS parents. These two candidates garnered our support by vocalizing their opposition to charter schools, privatization, Finch and his pro-charter school agenda and privatization crusade. Baker has now chosen to align himself with the very mayor he frequently criticized and Hennessey was seduced by the possibility of ascending to the role of BBOE chairman.

When speaking with my parent peers and fellow community members regarding this incredible betrayal, I have repeatedly heard them describe Baker’s and Hennessey’s support of Coates as a “slap in the face” to not only BPS parents, but to the Bridgeport community as a whole.

There is only one reason a charter school parent would want to serve on a local school board, and it is certainly not to improve or advocate for BPS, their children or families. Coates’ appointment to the BBOE is equivalent to a manager from Burger King serving on the board of directors for McDonald’s. Serving on the board would be used to the benefit of Burger King and to the detriment of McDonald’s, and Coates’ intentions are no different.

It is completely unacceptable that a charter school parent is going to make vital decisions that will directly impact both my children and me. In fact, Coates will participate in selecting the next superintendent of the BPS, which will play a critical role in the future success of 21,000 BPS students, 30,000 parents and more than 2,000 teachers and staff. All the while her child will remain enrolled in Achievement First Charter School unscathed by her decisions.

I truly believe that out of everything bad that happens you can find some good. And I can honestly say that this travesty has inspired me to work to defeat Moales Jr., Illingworth and Coates in September 2015. I hope all of you will consider joining me in making this goal a reality. And as for Baker and Hennessey, we will see you at the polls in 2017.

In closing, I want to be clear on one critical point: Kadisha Coates does not represent this Bridgeport public school parent nor does she represent thousands of other BPS parents in her dubious capacity as the newest member of the BBOE.



  1. The legislature of the State of CT provides major support and funding for educating the youth of Bridgeport in the form of public schools, and in recent years, an alternative in the form of Charter Schools. Some parents and concerned citizens in Bridgeport feel one way to find necessary funds to assist the public schools in their mission is to constantly critique or diminish the role of Charter Schools.

    Personally I am impressed with some of the serious parents I have encountered who have looked at the local opportunity for learning for offspring and decided to get in line for a Charter School opportunity. There seems to be a waiting list of such families.

    The voices of parents with experience of Charter and Public schooling currently is helpful to understand practical differences, to share approaches that may be working to increase student achievement, to potentially reduce the misinformation and emotion that circulates on the subject and eventually to make the education process more effective.

    Last evening a BOE Facilities meeting on the third floor of City Hall covering school building and maintenance topics began at 5:30 PM and was nearing the end of the agenda around 8:00 PM. Meanwhile, a quorum of the City Council gathered for 6:30 PM public speaking, 7:00 PM formal Call to order, fire personnel honor and Council business and finished before 7:50 PM. You would have learned a lot more about Bridgeport governance at the Facilities Committee meeting than at the Council session in my opinion.

    Council members had info packets covering a number of topics delivered to them. One such was a formal sole source agreement with the Cal Ripken Foundation to participate in providing multiple improvements in the City. The overall price tag exceeds $6 Million of which the Ripken Foundation will raise $500,000. Where will the City funds be found? The Mayor likes parks for the people and pursues playgrounds and athletic facilities for youth. But the Superintendent of Schools says the BOE requires an additional $6 Million to start the 2015-16 school year. Where will the money come from? For playgrounds? And for schools? Or for schools or for playgrounds? When will the Mayor’s office give a sign there are really no funding problems in Bridgeport? When will we see priorities in the City that make good sense to the taxpaying public? Time will tell.

    1. Enough with the parks already. What is Cal Ripken going to do for the city it isn’t doing for itself now? What can they possibly do for $5.5 Million. We have had enough of mayor green jeans spending taxpayer money on useless parks. If you need an example, drive to the new park on Knowlton St that cost us approximately $7 million and no one goes there except the homeless in the summer.
      Take a ride through Beardsley Park and look at the bike path that has cut through the park and is protected by an ugly wood fence. I can’t wait until summer when people park alongside the road and traffic can’t get by. Where are the cutouts so wheelchair-bound people can get close to the water and feed the ducks? Bike Path, My Ass.

  2. Since you touched on the charter school “waiting list” propaganda, here are some pertinent facts. Well-compensated charter school proponents love to state there are 1,200 children on their waiting lists in Bridgeport, however what they don’t publicize is when one child applies to three difference charter schools, they are counted three separate times in the overall total. Over 6,500 students applied to enter our magnet schools for 2014/2015 and only a little over 600 gained admission. Approximately 5,900 students were placed on a one-year waiting list and will have to re-apply next year. The BPS only counts each student once.

    Parents are seeking magnet school options in great numbers, not charter schools. These are the facts.

    1. Ms. Pereira, I have asked you questions in the past about financial statements you have made regarding the expense of Charter Schools to the public system to which you saw no cause to answer. Your right. Your opinion. I claim the same right and opinion.

      The fact there are parents happy in their choice of Charter Schools after being unhappy with the public school choices they observe is sufficient for me to see they have a place in Bridgeport. I was not wearing a “bow tie” last evening at the Facilities Committee meeting but then you were not present either to say hello, observe my dress or comment on the wardrobe of any of the COE members. (It was interesting to see the rigorous questioning by all Board members of how the education decisions that affect budgets and buildings have come to be made in recent years.)

      I worked for a YES vote on the Library and on the Charter Revision a NO vote. I cover multiple ways our governance is not working in the City. At times it is a lonely place but it is my voice. Consider, the constant personal attacks on individuals who see a different course of action undercuts your standing with some of the public. Time will tell.

      1. This is code for “I don’t know what I am talking about so I’d better not answer.” I believe it has been approximately three months since you stated charter schools require “sweat equity” from parents, and when I challenged you I was informed you were meeting with each charter school so you could report the findings to support your assertions. As of today’s date, you have never posted information to support your claims.

        Bow Tie, I guess you haven’t figured out I am not concerned with how my “action undercuts” my “standing with some of the public.” That is something typical politicians care about.

        The vast majority of the public was against what many civil rights, women’s rights and worker’s rights advocates and leaders stood for or against during theses historical struggles. Many were viewed negatively, however those same figures are viewed as iconic leaders in this country. All of these historical figures stood on the right side of the issue against incredible public criticism, criminal prosecution and public persecution, however they never wavered in their beliefs, values and core principles. If I have to choose between following in the footsteps of someone like Diane Ravitch or Jennifer Alexander, the choice is an easy one for me.

        1. Ms. Pereira,
          I am beginning to see you as one of those historic figures you reference, celebrated in marble, bronze or plaster. When you have made your ‘easy choice’ as to whom you wish to be, let me be one of the first to step up with a small contribution to your monument. How will the message on the plaque read? What will it say about the youth of Bridgeport?

          Regarding my “sweat equity” statement, I learned from the Charters who did talk with me that working for the local Charters is not part of their current pattern. However, I did learn in other places in other states, that has been a part of the development pattern. An overstatement on my part.

          What I also learned was the administration in the schools I talked to were very interested in parent communication and participation. The participation they were looking for was in seeing the students got sustaining meals, a good night’s sleep, stories told when age appropriate, and oversight of homework when issued. These are routine expectations for good parenting, public or charter, I expect.

          Which Diane Ravitch footsteps will you be following? Those of the days when she espoused Charter Schools and testing or her later steps when she did a 180? Paths to fame or notoriety are not necessarily straight. Conversions can occur.

          Of course, I asked a factual question of you only three weeks ago regarding a $3-4 Million dollar number that was offered as the cost of Charter Schools to the public system. Perhaps you will offer the detailed areas and the detailed expenses for a specific school year. Time will tell.

  3. What strides have been made to improve education for the children of Bridgeport? We have a lot of talk and a power struggle within the BOE. It’s like people are fighting to be the captain of the Titanic.

  4. The 2014/2015 projected costs associated with the five charter schools currently located in Bridgeport are as follows:
    $1.2 million in bus transportation costs
    $1.1 million for 10 special education teachers
    $647,000 for the social workers, psychologists and speech pathologists that must leave BPS students to service students in the five charter schools in Bridgeport
    $1.0 million in the loss of Title I funds that follows the child when they attend a charter school

    The estimated costs from July 2014–June 2019 is approximately $30 million.

    I only have one request of any future statues or plaques in my honor, and that is they make absolutely no reference to “bow ties.”

  5. Seriously, I would have thought your single request of such future honor would be a statement about the “students of Bridgeport.” Time will tell.


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