On Tuesday nine candidates for Board of Education will be on the ballot for a special election ordered by the Connecticut Supreme Court after it overturned the move last summer that led to state control of city schools. The elected school board will be reseated once the Tuesday results are certified by elections officials. Four school board seats will be filled including one reserved for minority-party representation. Three members of the state-appointed board, Jacqueline Kelleher, Hernan Illingworth and Ken Moales, are Democratic-endorsed candidates in the special election. Members of the state board penned a commentary for the Connecticut Post highlighting accomplishments following its final meeting as a body. See below:
On Monday of last week, we had our last meeting as the appointed Board of Education for the city of Bridgeport. We wanted to share with you some of the progress that has been made over the past year and thank those who have made it possible.
As schools open this week there are:
- New textbooks for every child in conjunction with a new district-wide standardized curriculum, which is in compliance with the latest national educational standards.
- The opportunity for qualified high school students to take courses on college campuses and earn college level credits.
- New leadership in all the comprehensive high schools.
- The opportunity for special education students to return to the district schools in new and expanded programs.
- Participation in the state Alliance District program which brings $4.4 million in additional funding for reform initiatives in the schools.
- Curiale School’s participation in the state’s Commissioner’s Network to bring about dramatic improvement in this school with additional state funds.
- A new parent-engagement policy developed by concerned parents, which sets the standard for parent participation and a welcoming school environments.
- A new parent hotline in place to provide easier access to problem resolutions.
- A portion of the school day devoted to helping struggling students catch up.
- New opportunities for students who are on track to experience educational enrichment.
- A safe corridors program in place in conjunction with the Bridgeport Police Department to help improve the security and safety of the students in challenged neighborhoods.
- A balanced district budget with school-based budgets and resource allocation methods posted on the district’s website.
These improvements were possible only with the support of so many people in the community and leaders of our state government. We would like to take this opportunity to thank some of those individuals for making the progress that has been made possible:
- First and foremost, Superintendent Paul Vallas and the senior leadership team he assembled — Dr. Sandra Kase, Marlene Siegel, Don Kennedy, Shively Willingham and Lissette Colón. Their experience and drive have made all the improvements that the students of Bridgeport will be experiencing at school starts this week a reality. A tremendous amount was accomplished by this team in a very short period of time.
- Staff of the district at all levels. When change happens so rapidly it puts a great deal of stress on staff and support systems. The flexibility, engagement and dedication of the staff to what is best for their students are greatly appreciated. Likewise, their elected representatives, especially at the Bridgeport Education Association and the Bridgeport Council of Administrators and Supervisors, have been greatly appreciated constructive partners in the reform efforts.
- The parents and their Parent Advisory Council (PAC) leadership. At every turn, the parents and the PAC leadership have been there to provide candid feedback and support for the reform efforts.
- The students. The opportunity to hear directly from the students about their concerns and desires was so powerful. The students we spoke with want to learn and succeed. They were very candid in expressing their concerns about anything that gets in the way of that goal.
- The mayor, his staff and the City Council. The operational and financial support of the city and the advocacy for improving the education of the students of Bridgeport has been a fundamental underpinning of this success. As a result of the mayor’s leadership, there now exists a new collaborative working relationship between the Board of Education and the city.
- The advocacy and support organizations such as the Bridgeport Public Education Fund, Excel Bridgeport, the Parent Leadership Training Institute, Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, the Fairfield County Community Foundation, the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition have all played key support roles in moving the agenda forward.
- Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management Ben Barnes and the legislative delegation from Bridgeport provided great support to the district, especially in the passage of the governor’s historic education reform bill.
- The Connecticut Post and the rest of the media for helping to get the word out about the significant changes taking place in the district.
- The community at large for their candid input and commitment to the children of the city.
We have heard from many of you of a new sense of hope and optimism for the education of children in Bridgeport. We stand ready to be of any assistance we can be for a smooth board transition and continued progress in improving the educational opportunities for the children of Bridgeport.
Thank you for your support this past year.
Robert Trefry, Chair
David Norton, Vice Chair
Jacqueline Kelleher, Secretary
the Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr.