School Board Challenge Slate Faces Democratic Establishment

Hennessey, Baker, Gardner
Democratic school board challengers from left Dave Hennessey, Andre Baker and Howard Gardner.

The challenge slate for Board of Education, awaiting official word from elections officials it has enough petition signatures to qualify for a September 10 Democratic primary, has launched a Facebook page here. City Councilman Andre Baker, former councilman and retired teacher Dave Hennessey and Howard Gardner, founding member of the Minority Business Association, will face endorsed Democrats Simon Castillo, Katie Bukovsky and Brandon Clark.

“The BEST Slate is your team of Democrats who represents and answers to the people, not political bosses,” the Facebook page declares. Candidate background from the Facebook page:

Andre Baker

• Four-term Bridgeport City Councilman (currently President of Black and Hispanic Caucus, co-chair of Ordinance, Education, and Social Service Committee; also served on budget and Appropriations Committee)

• CEO of Baker-Isaac Funeral Services

• Served in many community organizations including Ralphola Taylor Center, Juneteenth Parade, and Mt. Aery Baptist CDC

Dave Hennessey

• 38 years as a teacher in Bridgeport

• US Army veteran

• Former City Councilman

• Over 42 years coaching (baseball, softball, basketball) at Little League, high school, and college levels

• Organized countless educational and recreational events beyond duties as a teacher

Howard Gardner

• Founding member and former Director of the Minority Business Association

• Over 28 years of professional experience in field of information technology

• Extensive volunteer work in Bridgeport schools and community including Ralphola Taylor, YMCA, Literacy Volunteers, Red Cross

• Numerous awards for community service from ABCD, NAACP, and West Indian American Association



    1. So anna, you would rather see a demographic statistic represented than qualified candidates? The condition of BPS demands quality right now, not politics. Why didn’t you run? You are a woman. Finding good quality candidates with no conflicts and not beholden to anyone or anything but the welfare of the kids is a tall enough order but trying to fit a racial and ethnic demographic within those constraints is nearly impossible in Bridgeport. People don’t want to run. There is a fine array of candidates on both sides of this primary. We are lucky to have such good choices.

  1. anna,
    No question diversity is important. These three candidates may not have been born a certain gender or ethnicity you may be looking for in a candidate. However, they offer a great diversity and depth of experience in Bridgeport … and they are widely respected for their many contributions to the community and for their integrity. At least, that’s what people–incidentally of both genders and many apparent ethnicities–thought in Bridgeport, when I was out collecting signatures for these candidates two weekends ago.

  2. anna being anna is a perfect example of how some people are more interested in ethnicity than absolute demonstrable qualifications. Here we have three ideally suited candidates but they lack (1) a chromosome and (2) don’t have enough vowels in their last names. Voter apathy is one thing. Voter stupidity is quite another.

    1. Bridgeport will renege on the contract.
      Vallas will sue the BOE.
      Mark Anastasi will declare B’port taxpayers must pay for the attorneys representing Vallas.
      Vallas will lose.
      Mark Anastasi will sue Vallas to recover legal fees.
      All of this being done to get the public to forget about the million-dollar driveway.
      Only in Bridgeport.

  3. I have seen Andre Baker at BOE meetings this past year. Not sure about the other two candidates personally.
    I truly respect strong, smart and confident women as well as men. This grouping is not “a party” that has a plan other than to be independent of the machine, I will guess. And I do not see this as a vote for testosterone any more than I believed past WFP representation was an endorsement of estrogen.
    What will each commit himself to? Isn’t that what we want to know, to trust and to approve with a vote? Time will tell.

  4. Andre Baker (City Councilman from the East End who is usually the sole dissenting vote on the Council), Howard Gardner (former Director of the Minority Business Association who was the first to resign in protest from the BPSS/Excel Board when they supported the illegal takeover AND whose wife is a 27-year member of the BEA), and Dave Hennessey (recently retired–after 38 years–Bpt Public School teacher AND 42+ year coach). They are three candidates of great integrity, experience and commitment to our community.

  5. *** anna, you want diversity, vote Castillo (Hispanic), Baker (black) & Bukovsky (white female). Not bad picks in my opinion and in which I may consider voting in that direction! Whatever way you decide, you must admit there are some good choices to pick from in this “primary,” no? *** DO YOUR POLITICAL HOMEWORK ***

  6. Yes, diversity and smarts. Vote Castillo, Bukovsky and Clark. Baker is a good guy, a good guy who just votes no all the time. Has Baker initiated anything on the council that has passed? He’s just another no vote. Easy to vote no.

    1. anna,
      So is it really diversity you’re after … or just pulling the lever for the DTC machine team now so well represented by Moales on the BOE?

      Evidently, you and the DTC machine see no conflict in the BOE candidacy of Mr. Clark who is:
      (A) a charter school educator/counselor in Bridgeport, and
      (B) was featured in a clearly deceptive mailer with Mayor Finch last year urging Bridgeport residents to vote “YES” for the charter revision allowing a Finch takeover of the school board.

      Clark is quoted on the piece as follows:
      “As a teacher, I have seen true progress in Bridgeport Public Schools in the last 10 months since we started changing the school system and building new schools. There’s still more work to be done, but we are making a real difference in improving Bridgeport Public Schools.” [then on other side of flyer: “I’m voting YES on Question 1 because I believe in continuing the progress that has begun under Mayor Finch.”– Brandon Clark.


      BTW, the state CMT numbers released today weren’t reflective of the promised turnaround.

      Wake up, Bridgeport!

  7. *** Voting “no” is not easy when 18 out of 20 members are usually voting “yes!” Especially if it’s Mayoral administrative business that’s being pushed through without needed info reaching all required parties nor following city procurement policies. How many times after a rubber stamp vote of “yes” has it come back to haunt this admin. and city council! Are you a 100% pro-admin. Union Rep who is being taken care of and has forgotten your Union Brothers and Sisters or just in the dark? *** GO TO THE LIGHT! ***

  8. No Superintendent in the State of CT should be looking for applause it would seem from the results reported by the press today.
    What could be the explanation for such a generally dismal result for an entire State? Will you allow me to bring out my snow shovel once again? Thank you.
    1) Mayor Finch nor Public Facilities have made their “learning from the last snow storm” into a report made available to the public.
    2) Schools in this City and others around the State were closed longer than normal. This ‘unscheduled academic break’ caused teachers and others to be concerned as the tests were scheduled within fewer than 10 days in many cases in wake of the snow. Teaching to the test? Always a possibility. Kids getting removed from school discipline for too long and unable to adjust to rigors of testing? Another possibility.
    3) Looking for further explanations, rather than attacks on those in charge without connecting the dots. Smashing thought!!!
    Time will tell.

    1. “No Superintendent in the State of CT should be looking for applause it would seem from the results reported by the press today.
      “What could be the explanation for such a generally dismal result for an entire State? Will you allow me to bring out my snow shovel once again?”

      JML, the “State” is an average of all the cities and towns school districts. The lower test scores of urban school districts like: Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury and Bridgeport causes the state number to be lower. Superintendents of high-scoring districts should received the Golden Shovel Award, not just “applause.”

      “Kids getting removed from school discipline for too long and unable to adjust to rigors of testing? Another possibility.”

      There must be some good reason for their removal from class. If they were removed from the school, there is the “possibility” they were disrupting the learning process for others. Left alone to disrupt the learning environment would possibly cause more students to perform poorly. Am I connecting the dots so far? Don’t blame the snow. How many students studied during the weekend? There wasn’t any snow problems like the 30 inches in prior years of low test scoring; maybe it was the good weather, then. How many Bridgeport students do you think spent this summer working on their reading skills so far? Just a thought!

  9. B.e.
    Are you alleging criminal behavior by Vallas? Or suggesting a work of mercy in the form of visiting Blago?
    Seriously now, what funds in the 2012 or 2013 City (and BOE) budgets were diverted to charter schools since Vallas’ arrival? Will you please go to the posted budgets and report back on your comment? I have looked long and hard (but always leave open the possibility that I missed something important), but have not found what you suggest.

    Rather I have been happy to find financial, grants and personnel info better than previous administrations. More timely than reports from Bridgeport Finance office while using the same MUNIS software also. Assuming the revenue and expense items are accurately reported, there is also a variance summary that is useful. Variance narratives have been eliminated from City side financial reports since Anne Kelly-Lenz became director. The subject has been raised in Budget and Appropriations but nothing done yet.

    So inquiring citizens as well as most City Council members cannot really assess what is ongoing with City finances. How is that for waste and ‘corruption’ of previous systematic reports as well as violation of City Charter?

    Vallas and education employees have contract negotiations facing them. If quality instructional time (where qualified educators are face-to-face with students in the classroom) gets undercut by 15% or more in a 180-day school year, how do you make this up? Perhaps more attention to how those numbers are based, and how they compare school by school or community by community, before pointing fingers? Time will tell.

    1. “Assuming the revenue and expense items are accurately reported, there is also a variance summary that is useful.”

      JML, sounds like you’re a little skeptical about the numbers provided to you. Think about this: You are fully aware of the driveway deal and the fact everyone involved didn’t know about it until the CT Post broke the story. What makes you think there is a good chance you have been provided with real numbers?

      1. For purposes of objectivity and fairness, Joel, I made this statement. I have found no reason to distrust Public School system numbers as reported, especially when they are reported promptly, provide genuine balance (or even surplus) and receive no challenge from those who are vehemently anti-Vallas.
        I was being careful, not skeptical. I trust and when I get curious, I have verified BOE numbers.

        That process on the City side does not work. City Council members don’t care what is said about the system by me including Charter violations, ignorance of their own Ordinances not being followed, poorly designed and inadequate fiscal info from administration to City Council when their vote is required. All of these issues and more are part of the driveway gate story. Is it any wonder the City keeps fiscal info close to its vest when they cannot keep accurate track of what balances remain unspent on capital projects pursued over multiple years? Any evidence of such info on Bridgeport web site?
        (Yet Trumbull is featured in a CT Post story today for borrowing $2.5 Million and not putting it to use promptly? Does the Post have a double standard in pointing to this issue that has administrative and minor financial backfire? Why have they not focused on the serious failure of the Finch administration to explain the public safety overtime (other than appoint another deputy chief to monitor) in connection with the 2012 public safety contracts? No CT Post reporting I can remember. How about you? Time will tell.

  10. I for one am very happy to see all of the candidates have what appears to be genuine and solid qualifications to serve on the BOE. Knowing a minimum of two members elected must be from minority political parties makes the choices even more important …

    1. donj,
      Your vote matters! Low voter turnout feeds the status quo. Want more of that?

      If you want this slate to be on the November ballot … then you’d better do all you can to get them through the PRIMARY on SEPTEMBER 10th.

  11. Pete,
    Look forward to talking to you soon. Maybe Thursday?
    As to donj, after the election last year he took a long vacation from OIB it seems. Perhaps there were no subjects of interest to him or many other reasons. But a word to the wise: donj will repeat the comment about doubt regarding voting. He did it at least two dozen times before the last mayoral election. If you want to get people to the polls to vote, it will be worth spending time with your neighbors and being sure they vote rather than coaxing donj. He is ‘trolling’ for attention, as in fishing, not as in being Bob Walsh or residing under a bridge! Time will tell.

  12. Well John, I really do have doubts about voting this time around. Let’s just put it this way, I now understand why the majority of people in Bridgeport do not vote and that is it does not matter who wins so what’s the point of even voting????????? Hell, if I did not return to OIB I would not even know they’re having a election on the 10th. I am young and I already have voter apathy so idk how a person can continue voting in their 30s and up and never see a politician who did anything positive. Continuing to vote makes no sense.

    1. Own property in the City?
      Reside in the City and depend on its services?
      Care about the older and younger neighbors who are not working and the services available to them or not?
      Concerned about schools preparing youth in the City for real-world responsibilities and opportunities when they turn 18?
      Any of these and a few more are longer-term reasons for becoming informed, staying up to date, and participating in governance activities including voting EVERY TIME the opportunity presents itself.
      Your possible voter apathy could be called profound ignorance in two to three decades when you start singing “How are they going to take care of me?” Look around and see if staying informed and making a difference in past elections might have provided for different paths in this community. Time will tell.


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