Video of Kadisha Coates’ school board interview: Thursday night Kadisha Coates became the newest member of the Board of Education replacing John Bagley who resigned in October. Megan DeSombre who hosts Education Bridgeport and regularly attends school board meetings has profiled Coates, a charter school advocate, on her site including the following piece in September. DeSombre is also a charter school proponent.
I think it’s safe to say that most parents, no matter where they’re from, envision college in their children’s future. Bridgeport parent of three Kadisha Coates is no different.
When I sat down with her a few weeks ago to talk about what she, a prospective charter school parent, thought about Bridgeport Public Schools she told me that college preparation was a chief concern and part of the reason she sought out alternatives to the neighborhood schools.
As of this Fall, Coates’ two school aged children (the youngest is still an infant) will be attending Achievement First and Great Oaks Charter School respectively. They previously attended Saint Teresa’s in Trumbull.
“This is a Rough System Here in Bridgeport”
Coates and her husband Martin moved to Bridgeport when her first child was an infant. As a younger mother in a new city, she had no idea what the school system was like, so, when her son was about a month old, she began asking other parents and friends what she should do.
“They said, well … this is a rough system here in Bridgeport. So you will have to apply now for him to get into a good school.”
“Everyone was telling me this is the way to go,” said Coates. “You have to put him in a Catholic school if you cannot get him into what they called a “proper” quote unquote school in Bridgeport, because the education’s not there.”
She kept applying, hoping to get her son into one of the city’s selective magnet schools.
“So I did that over and over again, and this child is getting old and I’m still paying this tuition I can’t afford,” said Coates.
“Even with a two parent household it was rough. Without my mother and sister’s help for after school, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Coates said she prayed hoping that everything would “line-up” for her children, not knowing whether or not they’d be prepared for the road ahead.
“You don’t want to go to college and then say OK, oh my gosh, I don’t even know if I’ll get through this. The biggest problem isn’t getting to college,” said Coates. “It’s graduating.”
Now, she says she has peace of mind knowing that her children will not only receive a “proper education,” but also that the school “actually lets them know from a young age college is out there.”
“They’re not just getting the reinforcement at home, but they’re also getting it at school.”
Getting into College is Only Half the Battle
It’s really no wonder that parents like Coates are concerned about college. The statistics speak for themselves.
According to state data, only about two-thirds of Bridgeport Public School students graduate on time, and even that doesn’t paint a full picture of the problem.
Central High School, which contains a selective magnet in addition to a traditional public high school, has a graduation rate that hovers around 75 percent collectively. The graduation rates at Bassick and Harding high schools are far worse. In fact, Bassick’s 2012 graduation rate was actually below 50 percent. Even scarier, according to the Connecticut Post, in 2013 only 18.4 percent of Bassick High School graduates went on to four year colleges.
Unfortunately, as Coates noted, getting to college is only half the battle.
Over 10,000 Connecticut students were enrolled in remedial college classes last year.
Even more telling, only about 40 percent of college students at public colleges and 48 percent at private colleges graduate in four years in Connecticut.
Despite the statistics, Coates is hopeful that things will turn around for Bridgeport.
“I think there needs to be some type of change,” said Coates. “Something across the board to where standards should be for children.”
That change she believes will come from parent leaders.
“You know, a lot of people look at Bridgeport and say, OK, it has a lot of improvement to do, but I’m optimist as far as the educational system. I think everything in Bridgeport will get better, but [it’s] because of parents that are willing to voice their opinion,” said Coates.
“Because of those leaders, Bridgeport will be an awesome place.”