From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:
Seven of nine candidates vying for four open seats on a reconstituted city school board fielded questions about testing, security, vouchers and even school lunches at a packed forum Wednesday.
They were asked about their visions for the school district, what they want to see in city’s next school superintendent and to give the audience one good reason to send their child to the city’s public school system.
After a year with a state-appointed school board, the city will get an elected school board back, by order of the state Supreme Court after a special election is held Sept. 4.
Three Democratic candidates are city residents who are on the state-appointed board. There are three Republican candidates, a petition candidate and two members of the Working Families Party. The Working Families candidates boycotted the League of Women Voters event because it was being co-sponsored by Excel Bridgeport, a group who has members who participated behind the scenes in the state replacement of the city school board last summer.
Barbara Pouchet, one Working Family candidate, said the boycott was her idea. “I honestly felt it was a setup and not in our best interest to take part,” she said. John Bagley, her running mate, said he agreed. Both spent Wednesday evening knocking on doors in the community.
At the debate, Jean Rabinow, member of the Bridgeport-area League of Women Voters steering committee called Excel a good partner and said the purpose of the event was to get the issues out in front of the voters. She said the league and Excel split in half the $200 fee to rent the room at the Burroughs Community center.
A lot of ground was covered during the two-hour program.
“I believe this new board will do the things necessary to make Bridgeport schools the best schools out there,” said Wayne Hayes, a Republican. He said he wants the district’s next superintendent to be someone who is honest, transparent and “be here to see it through all the way to the end.”
Kenneth Moales, a Democrat, said he supports school vouchers, and said they are neither anti-union nor anti-public schools. “Vouchers provide children with an opportunity to attend other schools that if they had the resources, they would attend,” said Moales.
“I don’t mind vouchers. I don’t mind charter schools but what you have to understand is if we’re going to fix this system all of us have to be all in. We have to be all in on fixing this system,” said Joe Borges, a Republican, on the same question.
On making the public more aware of what is going on in the system, Karen Jackson, a petition candidate, said if elected she would push to make sure meetings are more accessible, that speakers have more time to address the board and that information is provided in multiple languages.
Jacqueline Kelleher, a Democrat and college professor, told the crowd that the board needs an educator on it and also needs a unified vision. “Those who can’t contribute to the vision, it might not be the right time,” she said.
Asked about security, Evelyn Hayes, a Republican married to Wayne Hayes, said the focus should be on creating an outlet for kids who constantly are getting into trouble. “I offer a fresh perspective. I am keen on getting to the root cause on issues,” she said.
Hernan Illingworth, a Democrat, said he wants equity among all schools. “We’re getting there,” he said, adding it is time to make the district about what is best for the kids.