School Board Seats Up For Grabs–Can Bagley’s Fast Break Lift Working Families Party? GOP’s Chance To Win

Jacqueline Kelleher
Jacqueline Kelleher, a professor at Sacred Heart University, is one of three Democratic candidates for four open school board seats.

Don’t assume all three Democrats running for school board seats will be elected in the September 4 special election ordered by the Connecticut Supreme Court after it invalidated state control of city schools. The citywide turnout could be just 10 percent and some political operatives say it will be lower because the special election falls the day after Labor Day. This provides an opening for supporters of candidates in higher turnout areas opposed to Mayor Bill Finch’s greater influence on city schools.

There are nine candidates for four open school board seats. Electors can vote for up to any three candidates. The top three vote pullers win, with a fourth seat reserved for minority-party representation so the most seats the Dems can claim is three, but in this type of race nothing is assured if the anti-administration vote rears its head. Connecticut’s Working Families Party that already has elected two of its members to the school board is offering two candidates September 4, legendary basketball player John Bagley and Barbara Pouchet active in school issues for years. The Republicans have three candidates, husband and wife finance team Wayne and Evelyn Hayes and former Republican Registrar Joe Borges. This is a chance for the GOP to get back in play after it was embarrassed by the WFP candidates three years ago. Karen Jackson, who is opposed to a mayoral-appointed school board, has qualified for the ballot as a petitioning candidate.

John Bagley

The Democratic candidates are current members of the state-appointed board, Ken Moales, Hernan Illingworth and Jacqueline Kelleher.

The western portion of the city that includes Black Rock and the West Side as well as the North End provide the highest turnout areas of the city, dramatically outperforming the lowest turnout voting sections. Black Rock by percentage is the highest performing voter area. Finch lost this precinct last year in both the Democratic primary to Mary-Jane Foster and in the general election to Republican Rick Torres. This neighborhood, with 3000 registered voters, is Foster territory as well as home to a number of activists such as retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez who vehemently opposed the state takeover of city schools and the mayor’s pursuit of a mayoral-appointed school board. City voters will decide that issue in a charter revision ballot question in November. Black Rock is also the political base of the Republican Party.

The highest turnout areas are also the highest assessed residential areas, thus the highest taxed areas. The mayor is asking voters to give him more power (to appoint school board members) after raising taxes. The Central High School precinct on the West Side and the Winthrop and Blackham voting areas in the North End are all monster-in-size precincts. The western and northern areas of the city represent about one-third of the total registration but could account for more than 50 percent of the turnout in this race.

Hernan Illingworth
Hernan Illingworth, one of three Bridgeport residents on the school board endorsed by city Democrats.

What’s on the line for the mayor? If two Working Families candidates win, that means its members will likely control the school board with a 5-4 majority assuming they all stay together for key votes. WFP school board members Maria Pereira and Sauda Baraka had been voting in a bloc with Democrat Bobby Simmons prior to the school board asking for state intervention in July of last year. The irony in all of this, if the WFP controls the board, is the mayor’s mantra to take politics out of the elected board through his appointment power. The tiny WFP, and not the mayor’s party, would control. In a race like this, party allegiance is trumped by passionate voices. In addition, Bridgeport has roughly 20,000 unaffiliated voters. How will they vote?

A number of African American electors active in city voting are opposed to the state takeover as well as a mayoral-appointed body, even some who say progress has been made under the state-appointed board. Preserving their right to elect school board members takes precedence. The key for the three Democrats urging support for September 4 is highlighting progress that has taken place in the year they’ve been in charge. They can talk about successes: balancing the budget, implementing a five-year budget plan, progress for a new Longfellow School in the West End and Harding High School on the East Side, a new school security program, partnerships with area universities, upgraded technology and textbook program, bringing in many experienced principals and administrators to share a new vision with a record of success, and working together as a collective unit to get things done.

This campaign will be driven largely by the personal touch of phone calls and door knocking. Resources are limited on all sides. If just 10 percent of the city’s electorate votes that means just over 3000 votes in a close race could decide the top four vote producers.

Finch is putting his prestige on the line both in this special election and in the charter question in November. The mayor’s mantra: the system was dysfunctional with too much school board fighting, something had to be done and now there’s peace and harmony and results for the betterment of the students.

The Dems also have something the opposition forces do not have. An absentee ballot operation that places votes in the bank. With just two weeks until the primary it won’t be as mighty at the recent effort on behalf of State Senate nominee Andres Ayala, but for sure the opposition cannot wage an absentee ballot campaign to compete. The good news for the opposition, that won’t matter if their peeps vote.

Check out backgrounds of the various candidates in a story written by Linda Conner Lambeck of the CT Post here.



  1. Just back from vacation and saw Lennie post results precinct by precinct for the 23 senate election results. Can you post numbers from Black Rock on the US senate race please? I also came back from vacation to hear the lady who who won the East Side state rep got into an accident and left. Wtf, in a matter of days crazy stuff happens in the city, but I will hold my judgement of her because I do not know what fully happen there. As far as the school board goes, I have no plan on voting for a Democrat or Republican in this race. I’m voting for the Working Family candidates, that is it and might vote for the petition candidate. Black Rock might not even get 400 voters to come out.

  2. Kelleher is not a stooge, Andy. Of the three state-appointed candidates, I am going to vote for Jackie Kelleher. She will help with the continuity that I think is important. I am not sure about the rest. I am going to the candidate forum to help me make a decision.

    Today’s CT Post article confused me. Are we only allowed to vote for three candidates? I thought we needed to vote for four. Could someone please clarify what the CT Post wrote in the side box?

  3. *** Great question for Lennie’s reporting skills in a prior blog; who of the BOE candidates have kids of school age, how many in Bpt schools, and how many go to private or outside the city of Bpt schools? ***

  4. I don’t know what type of person would want to be involved with a “coup d’état” of the people’s right to vote. If Mayor Finch thought the Board Of Education members were so bad then why didn’t he tell the voters what he thought the problems were and then suggest they needed to be replaced? No, this mayor is smarter than the voters of Bridgeport so he just took the rights of Bridgeport voters to elect who they wanted to represent their values. What, are we in a foreign country where people’s rights are taken from them because the leadership wants to? How dare this mayor and these endorsed candidates do this to the voters of Bridgeport.

  5. Mojo–the CT Post has features on all nine candidates running for BOE seats. They even mention the forum set for Aug 22. They did not mention WFP is boycotting that forum. Yet that info has been on this blog for days. Is the boycott still going to take place?
    And what is everyone’s thoughts on those running for BOE of BPT public schools–but have their children in private schools?

  6. Lennie, how many candidates can a Bridgeport voters vote for when they vote? It is my understanding you can only VOTE FOR THREE CANDIDATES. Would you please make it clear how many candidates we can VOTE for on this very important election?

  7. Ron is correct. We can only vote for three!

    I found it interesting all three endorsed Democratic candidates, who are also lame-duck state appointed board members, say they favor an elected board. What a bunch of Hypocritic Oafs!

    I’m going to be bulleting my vote for the B’s (Bags and Babs)!

  8. As a proud Democrat I will NOT VOTE for any of the Democrats running. I could NEVER vote or support anyone who would take the right to vote away from the voters of Bridgeport. I will vote for the two WFP candidates, John Bagley and Barbara Pouchet, and Republican Joe Borges. All three will be a good addition to the Bridgeport Board Of Education.

    1. Leticia Colon was one of the five elected members along with Tom Mulligan, Sauda Baraka, Maria Pereira and Bobby Simmons whose terms have not yet expired. The elected board will be seated once elections officials certify results of the September 4 special election. If nothing screwy happens that should take a few days. If a vacancy occurs on the elected board, according to the City Charter, the members of the elected board fill the position.

  9. Candidly and painfully, to Bridgeport parents who are concerned about their kids receiving an education that’s worth something, they either send them to private schools or move.

    What parent in their right mind would want to send their kids to a school system with such a huge dropout rate, violence problems, lack of discipline, teenage pregnancy, etc?

    That’s why the middle class is deserting urban America everywhere, not just Bridgeport.

    Unfortunately, given we are way past the tipping point and no longer have a majority of mature-minded, married parents who understand their responsibility in raising children into society, there is next to no hope for the majority of the students. Those who are driven or who do have parents that drive them might do okay. The majority are doomed to a life of barely getting by.

  10. The middle class is melting in many places, not just in Bridgeport, and many people find the City an affordable place at the beginning as well as near the end of their life trajectory.

    The Bridgeport public schools are currently spending over $300 Million annually. The people who oversee the policy, processes and practices of our educational system have a heavy duty to monitor, look for performance standards to be met, and be sure priorities are attended to. Most of the money does not come from the City property owner/taxpayer currently but the trend is to expect the City taxpayer to pay more in the future.

    So it is a most important subject for more people to get smart about, monitor regularly, and use their vote. Open, accountable and transparent governance of the education system is important. Time will tell.

  11. Last week I had said I’d be voting the the B’s; Bags, Barbara and Blank.
    However, after careful consideration of all of the facts and based on Lennie’s fine reporting I have changed my mind.
    I forgot all about Karen Jackson. She is the candidate who has begun questioning the ethics of Moales sitting on the BOE and receiving funds from the BOE for his family-run daycare.
    Bags, Barbara and Jackson. A combination sure to make a change in the way the BOE does business!!!

  12. JML,
    You are correct in your comments but you should notice I said urban America. I know it is not just Bridgeport.

    I continually heard under Salcedo, Ramos and now Vallas how wonderful, blah, blah blah … Nobody in Bridgeport or urban America seems willing to state the obvious.

    The blame for the schools is at the feet of the Bridgeport parent who in approx. 80% of the time have children out of wedlock and they and their children can only survive by the generosity of others. Dropping out of school, impregnating a young girl, young girls pregnant, no problem, etc. etc.

    Oddly enough and all the more depressing, so many of these dysfunctional families are the fourth, fifth generation living this way.

    Interesting how the first generation immigrant whether they be European, African, Islands, etc. are extremely hard working. They embody the American dream. Many of whom I know right here in Bridgeport.

    JML, I really like Bridgeport. Like many of my peers, didn’t leave but did pay a huge premium in terms of property taxes and private school tuition. And then I see the behavior of these students and their families, I drive through the South End and look at the squalor in their yards, etc.

    And then I hear how it’s the superintendent’s, teacher’s, police’s, Mayor’s, Society’s fault these people are pieces of shit. Just couldn’t take it any more today.

  13. May you return to hopeful very soon. Thank you for your response. In the midst of all you have seen and call to attention in the South End, remember to see Seaside Park, University of Bridgeport (still a beacon of opportunity to people from different lands), Seaside Village, community gardens, and that is only a part of the neighborhood. If you find yourself cut off from people, call Big Brothers/Big Sisters and apply to mentor a youngster. It will help the youth and may help you see the world through another set of eyes and another set of emotions. Keep the faith, and hope. Time will tell.

  14. Denis OMalley,
    Before you generalize all single parent vs. married households, understand something. My mother raised four of us on her own. ALL of us completed school, NONE of us got into trouble, and NONE of us are pieces of s**t, as you so eloquently stated.
    However, I knew and know several people from two-parent, hard-working households where they have children who are career criminals–in and out of jail.
    I understand your frustration–but do not paint all with a broad brush.

    Question for Lennie–I asked before–are the WFP candidates still boycotting the BOE candidate forum and why has the CT Post not deemed this worthy of reporting? Nothing in their articles running up to the election has mentioned this, although you have the release here in yours.

  15. Lifelong Bpt,
    Understand and your point is well made. I know many who have your same story and are proud of the hurdles they and their family overcame … as they should.

    However am I wrong about a societal shift and the accompanying frustration I describe above?

  16. I read that piece of crap Mulligan wrote for the CT Post. That should disqualify him from ever serving in an elected position, period.
    Resign now, Tommy. Be a man about it. In your opinion the board was not capable or qualified to act. So why should you be allowed back on? Your comments make no sense.
    Furthermore, you are an attorney. So why would you ask Mark Anastasi. Or at a minimum, ask him to cite case law or enabling legislation and do your own research.
    Or furthermore, did you ask the City Attorney to put his opinion in writing??? I am sure the answer is no.
    Begone. You are an embarrassment to your profession and to the Democratic Party.

  17. Candidly, I don’t have a solution. My frustration and venting today is in direct proportion to all the politically correct posturing we see locally with schools, city government, national etc.

    I would like ministers and political leaders to start telling their flock what jerks many of them are with their life choices. What’s wrong with shame?

    It started bubbling over with Ernie Newton and a lot of the morons I see yelling in the crowd at BOE meetings who never get told they are idiots. Frankly, that the Town Committee could endorse Newton, that none of the ministers, Ralph Fords of the City didn’t stand up and say “Build a new life and all the best but are you crazy to think you could be a Senator again?”

    Completely vented and sorry to come across like a whiner today.

  18. But … taking a look at some success stories in education in this City and building upon that could be an answer. It is my understanding that Achievement First Academy on Noble Avenue and also on Stillman Street on the infamous East Side of Bridgeport, is given the same lot in demographics as the Bridgeport system, however they are exemplary in turning out kids who know the three Rs and who go on to college. How’s that for an answer, Grin?
    School Vouchers are also an obvious answer, but inexplicably they are opposed. The system, the Finchies and Mulligans of the world, are all happy with their power and the status quo. Don’t expect any changes soon and don’t send you child to a Bridgeport Public School, unless, of course, you are one of the lucky ones who wins the lottery for admission to a Magnet School.

  19. *** Unfortunately the three state-appointed candidates are all “yes” persons for Mayor Finch & Co. So if voters want some type of change from the usual BOE autopilot decisions, it’s the WFP and one of the GOP candidates, no? Remember, regardless of who gets in, come Nov. it’s vote “no” on the BOE city charter revision’s tricky worded question! ***


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