School Board Candidates, Minus Two, Share Education Positions

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.



  1. I attended the question and answer session last night. I was impressed with both the questions and the answers, however I am a bit concerned with the following: With all due respect, Mr. Illingworth is either a very nervous public speaker or he is not interested in using proper grammar, specifically many incorrect uses of verb tense, plurals and sentence structure. While I understand he is a very involved and hard-working person, I for one would like to see a school board member with the ability to speak grammatically correct English. Dr. Kelleher mentioned many times her expertise and her advanced degree; she a passionate speaker and is very well versed with the details of school tests and administration. I really took issue with her answer to the What would you with regard to the Para Professional Program Cuts–and I paraphrase–my special-needs child at Bassick High School had a one-on-one Para Professional which was perfect for him and he excelled, however, going forward with the change in Para Professionals–we must take a hard look at the time and resources for future Para Professional use. I see her statement as–I am entitled to have the best and the rest of you are not. She presented herself as The Expert on Public Education, and with all experts, there is always the possibility of the My Way or The Highway syndrome.

    1. jhvb–thanks for feedback. Could have been nerves on the part of Hernan. Grammar aside–did his ideas make sense?
      re: Kelleher–I don’t see where her statement regarding Paras was an entitlement thing, maybe just a statement on the system and cost itself. Would have been great if someone challenged her.
      You were in the room–so i will respect your judgement. Last question–the Working Families Party was concerned about the format–did you find it even ground or was it slanted to one side or another (e.g. Dem vs Rep, etc). Curious as to whether all candidates were treated the same.

      1. I was present for one hour of the session. The questions were submitted by the audience members. First and last responses from candidates rotated for each question. Time allowed for answers and rebuttal were well observed.

        I understand how hard it is for any of us who see ourselves as voices in the wilderness, outside the charmed “inner circle,” to be heard, to make a dent, to offer opinions with integrity to those in that circle. But the room was filled, SRO. And Bags and Pouchet should have let their message be heard alongside the others. After all, if either wins a spot on the Board, we have no idea what they see as positive and sustainable about the current administration, five-year plan and finances. Will they be collaborative as Board members listening to others, learning from others, as well as exercising their own expertise, skills, and concepts? We don’t know. Yesterday would have been a good start. In my viewpoint Excel did not get in the way or compromise my information session. But again, I am not yet certain of where my three votes will go. Lots of choices. Lots of info to digest. Time will tell.

    2. Lifelong–I would say the endorsed candidates were very well prepped and their answers were more generic and general–I thought the format was fair. As to Dr. Kelleher–it is more in her delivery–condensing is the best word I can use to describe her delivery. I think the WFP missed a great opportunity to give their message and show they are well prepared to defeat the endorsed candidates.

  2. *** Well, OIB bloggers who were there, should the WFP candidates have been there too in your opinions? Did the forum seem stacked in favor of Excel’s candidates or position? Will it end up hurting WFP’s BOE position by not being there in the long run? ***

    1. Yes, the WFP should have been there–it was fair and the endorsed candidates were less than stellar–the only Amen and cheers from the crowd were when Joe Borges said we must get the schools back to the basics of real learning and we must put our focus and dollars into fixing our public schools first and we as a board must be united in fixing our public schools.

  3. *** Thanks for your follow-up Jennifer Buchanan, I felt the WFP should have been there too and not only state their BOE platform and answer questions but to point out the differences between them and their candidate opponents’ views on moving the Bpt school system forward! ***


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