Thanks For Breaking Up Our Protest, Pal! Charter School Proponents Demand Apology For Demonstration Rejection From School Grounds

Security chief Willingham gags protesters. CT Post photo.

Board of Education meetings that run well into the night and sometimes into the next morning (espresso, please) are loaded with tasty sidebars, including a protest prior to last week’s meeting involving pro-charter school parents broken up by school security chief Shively Willingham in front of the Aquaculture School. All sorts of protests have taken place before school board meetings in recent years but for whatever reason the school security chief kicked the demonstrators to the curb. Whether you’re pro charter schools or anti charter schools, what’s wrong with a little warm up before the school board main event? Protesting parents filed this letter of protest with interim School Chief Fran Rabinowitz:

As Bridgeport parents, active community members, and taxpayers, we are writing to express our outrage with the actions taken on Monday evening at by Mr. Shively Willingham, Special Assistant to the Superintendent. Please consider this letter a formal complaint regarding Mr. Willingham’s actions.

On the evening of Monday, April 28th, a dozen Bridgeport parents peaceably gathered in front of the Aquaculture School before a scheduled school board meeting. We assembled there to call on the board to abandon plans for a lawsuit to stop the scheduled opening of two new charter public schools and were joined by members of the news media. During the middle of our testimony, Mr. Willingham appeared out of nowhere and angrily demanded that our parents and the reporters leave school premises immediately. We calmly explained that we had received permission to be there from school leadership, and yet Mr. Willingham continued to disrupt us, citing a city rule that he could not explicitly name. Eventually, we were forced to move our gathering off of school grounds.

In the past year, events organized by the Connecticut Educators’ Alliance, the East End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, and the Carpenters’ Union have been allowed to take place in front of the Aquaculture School. We are not certain why Mr. Willingham chose to treat us differently, but it is shameful that he chose to kick us off school grounds just because some of us have children who attend charter schools.

We are angry and hurt by Mr. Willingham’s actions, and we are deeply disappointed that the school department has yet to discipline Mr. Willingham or issue us an apology for violating our rights on Monday evening. We believe a formal apology from the school department is a small, but important step in the right direction. We ask that you respond promptly to this letter by next Friday, May 9th, so that we can avoid taking further action.

We look forward to your response.


Linda Francis, Event Organizer

Claudia Phillips, Event Organizer

Hermila Anaya

Francise Jean Louis

Leon Woods

Keisha Council



  1. Stand your ground, people. You have the right to assemble per our Constitution. I applaud you for participating in government and for this letter!
    Willingham should be fired!

  2. Charter School parents and organizations should hold their demonstrations or rallies on charter school property, not on Bridgeport Public School property. Can Bridgeport Public School parents hold a rally on Achievement First’s school property? Can they set up a generator, speakers, etc. right in front of the school’s entrance? I doubt it.

    The Bridgeport Board of Education does not represent or serve charter school students or parents. Charter schools are not part of the Bridgeport Public Schools. If you have an issue, go before your charter school’s board of education/governing council and ask them for assistance with your issues or concerns.

    The majority of these BBOE members were elected, because they are NOT in support of charter schools, privatizing education, ConnCAN, Northeast Charter Schools, hedge fund millionaires and billionaires, etc.

    Kudos to Mr. Shively! You do NOT owe any one of them an apology.

    Ms. Rabinowitz, do not let these Wall Street-backed, Families for Excellent Schools puppets bully you into any form of an apology!

  3. I just want to be clear, one of the co-organizers, Claudia Philips, constantly comments on Megan DeSombre’s blog. She cannot spell, punctuate, etc. She definitely did not author this letter.

    What “action” are you going to take? You claim to have 1,500 members in Bridgeport and you got out FEWER than 10 parents to your rally. There were almost as many Northeast Charter School employees at the rally, as charter school parents. The “action” you should be taking is how to actually organize an effective rally. If you can only get eight local charter school parents to your “rally,” you probably shouldn’t have one. It is pretty embarrassing.

  4. Don’t these charter school profiteers do any research before they make public demands and threaten “action?”
    I am interested to see what “action” charter school parents and paid charter school proponents are going to take. Especially considering the CT state laws that govern the use of school property support the Bridgeport Board of Education’s position.

    CT General Statute 10-239- “Use of school facilities for other purposes (a) Any local or regional board of education may provide for the use of any room, hall, school house, school grounds or other school facility within its jurisdiction for nonprofit educational or community purposes whether or not school is in session.”

    Clearly, the Bridgeport Board of Education did not authorize this rally on the “school grounds” they govern. If Northeast Charter Schools have a written authorization from the BBOE or minutes to show the BBOE voted on and approved their rally on “school grounds,” I think they should send it to Lennie and have him post it for all to see. My bet is Lennie will NOT receive any such document(s). They look foolish.

    1. I would guess they did the same amount of research the WFP and paid CEA proponents did before they initiated ‘action’ against Vallas. The BOE never objected to WFP rallies on school grounds. I guess some public groups get to rally on public property and some don’t. Heil WFP, Heil CEA.
      This kind of stuff happens all the time when ‘the man’ does not want to hear what ‘the people’ have to say:
      Participants in the “Freedom Rides for the Unborn” rally–more than 100 pro-life supporters–were kept from rallying on the federal park.
      Martin Luther King leaves Birmingham for meetings in Atlanta. Birmingham city council denies SCLC a parade permit for a proposed march to city hall.
      Sarkar said that in March also, the KMC had turned down its request for allotting the ground for Gandhi’s rally.

      If the rally is more acceptable, permission is granted:
      A Ku Klux Klan chapter has been granted a demonstration permit to protest the renaming of three Memphis parks.
      Neo-Nazi group will be demonstrating at the Hamilton County Courthouse this month. According to a county application approved.

  5. People have the right to demonstrate either for or against an issue, let’s not lose that right as well.
    People should also be aware Hedge Funds are making a fortune from the creation and administration of these Charter Schools and why do we need them?

    1. Black Rockin, every single rally attendee and participant had a right to attend a public meeting on Bridgeport Public School property. However, they had no such right to stage a demonstration or rally on BPS property. They set up a generator, speakers, microphone stands, etc. right outside the school entrance right before a scheduled public meeting. They were asked to move their rally/protest outside the gates of Aquaculture School. That is a fair and reasonable request. And I certainly agree, the main purpose of charter schools is not to help students, it is to generate profits through outrageous management fees, destroy public education, unions and privatize education. Do you know Achievement First in Bridgeport has over $800,000 budgeted for management fees next year? Fran Rabinowitz will supervise over 20,000 students next year and earn $190,000. It is absolutely outrageous.

      1. Dave–I do not know how true your ‘management fee’ theory is. Here is AF BPT’s balance sheet:
        It looks like the entire thing runs on ~$11 mil.

        According to this form 2013 EO:
        Compensation of current officers, directors, etc = $247,393
        IF there are three directors that would be ~$83K each.

    2. Really? Hedge funds are making all their money off charter schools. I mean; the teachers make all their money off schools, the CEA makes all its money off schools, Fran Rabinowitz makes all her money off schools, but hedge funds?
      ‘An article in Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine this week reports that the 25 highest-paid hedge-fund managers in the US had an average income of $540 million in 2006, with the top three pulling in over $1 billion each.’ Exactly how much of that $1 BILLION came from charter schools? You can give your answer as a percent. I.e.–90%, 99%, 0.01%

  6. David Moore is totally out of line. It does not matter if they are for or against charter schools. It doesn’t matter if is is school property or not. If they are residents and/or taxpayers in the city, they have every right to be there. The BOE simply needs a published set of rules to make sure everyone is treated the same and if needed a permitting process. I am against charters but never suggest any member of the public should be silenced based on what they have to say.

  7. With all this nastiness and vile charges going back and forth, has anyone thought of the kids? Have there been any talks about the high school curriculum that leads the kids nowhere? Have there been any talks about the board hiring its own remediation expert so the safety of the kids could be protected?


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