State-Appointed School Board, Following Final Meeting, Makes Its Case For Progress

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

Judith Bankowski

Hernan Illingworth

the Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr.



  1. While some good things may have come from this board being in place, it is no big deal when you are given the dollars to do the job.
    Finch and company and his sitting BOE at the time flatlined the BOE budget with the approval of the no-brain common council that did everything Finch wanted and they okayed it at the expense of the kids.
    Let’s talk about the new 6th grade math program that was purchased this year by the BOE. This will not be implemented for the first 3 months as the plan is to have the kids do 4th grade work for a number of days, then do 5th grade math for a number of days and finally after 3 months they will start the 6th grade math. They will be expected to finish this program in 5 months which is not possible. They will then be tested on the 6th grade material.
    We do not need a board that will not question the superintendent on his requests. Right now the Finch board is nothing more than yes people.

    1. Andy,
      You are so right. I am teaching 6th grade this year. I have 40 students on my roster (only 30 showed up last week). I will be teaching the new Singapore Math program. The first 13 weeks of school I will be using the program, but teaching the program at other grade levels including grades 3, 4 and 5. Yet come March I will be expected to give my students the CMTs. They will compare my students’ test scores against other sixth grade students in the state. How do I think my students will do? Not too well against students who had the whole year to be taught sixth grade math.
      And now they want to evaluate me as a professional and 40% of my eval will be based on student achievement. Let’s see, an expected class size of 40 (contract is 29), and test scores that will be based on three less months of teaching grade level work. I can’t wait for this evaluation.

      1. The “New Singapore Math program” … what’s wrong with the rote version learned in school 50 years ago? Math hasn’t changed, the only thing that has changed is the dumbing down. I’ll bet these kids will never know how to figure out the 6.35% sales tax (or even approximate it) in their heads. And you’re getting evaluated by 75% of the assigned students? And when the contractual number (29) actually shows up, how does that work? Kids evaluating the teacher? This is the sort of thing the “intellectuals” have decided will teach children?

  2. Please, the jury is still out on the so-called Vallas Team. Right now it’s all Balderdash. Latin balductum, or just plain bullshit, folks.

    I’m bullet-voting Bags & Babs for the BoE only!

  3. I wonder which staff writer wrote this for them, were they from Paul Vallas, Mayor Finch or Paul Timpanelli’s staff? This is what is going to happen if this group gets elected, they will take orders from Vallas, Finch and Timpanelli.

  4. This is the third coming of the so-called Vallas Team. Finch will live or die by the Vallas team. Remember the words by Finch “Oh! How did Bridgeport get Paul Vallas?” So far, a lot of taxpayers’ money and the kids just started school.

    I need someone to ask questions on the BOE.

    Bullet Bags & Babs. WFP

  5. *** Vallas continues to make good system changes but is being politically manipulated by Finch & Co.! He needs to stay out of city politics altogether and not be swayed one way or another, no? *** NEUTRAL ***


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