Dem School Board Candidates Share Priorities

Hennessey, Baker, Gardner
Democratic school board nominees Dave Hennessey, Andre Baker and Howard Gardner.

Democratic school board candidates Andre Baker, Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey set forth their education priorities in this commentary:

The B.E.S.T. team of Dave Hennessey, Andre Baker and Howard Gardner was successful in the Board of Education Democratic primary on September 10th and will continue on to November’s general election.

Thank you, gracias, grazie, obrigado and merci. We have tried to express our gratitude to each and every citizen of Bridgeport. We’ve reached out to voters from diverse backgrounds and from all corners of our city, thanking those who supported us in our resounding victory in September. Obviously, we cannot contact each voter personally, but we have expended great effort in thanking as many of you as we possibly can.

The B.E.S.T. team has a pro-reform message, but not the narrowly defined, flawed privatization and corporate takeover direction currently being pursued by the administration. Our team has been asked to meet with the current city administration. We felt that a proposed meeting would be presumptive on our part. The B.E.S.T. team has yet to be elected. After all, the Board of Education is an autonomous entity and, as such, does not answer to the administration. November 5th’s general election will determine which candidates are the most desirable for Bridgeport’s electorate. There will be ample time for all Board of Education members to meet, should they so desire, with the administration after November’s decisive vote.

Voters listened to our message during the primary campaign. They agreed with the B.E.S.T. team as it dealt an overwhelming defeat to the “rubber stamp” Board of Education and the “status quo” of political business as usual. Parents and taxpayers wish to have a quality public education for all of their children. All school children in Bridgeport must have the same opportunity for success.

What can the B.E.S.T. team do? How can the B.E.S.T. team help to give all children the quality public school education they deserve? We were asked these questions repeatedly during our walks around the various neighborhoods in our city. We replied that we are candidates who will demonstrate a commitment to shared governance. We will actively seek input from parents, teachers, administrators, students, and the community. Our team will not handle this participation in a perfunctory way. We will not be beholden to the city administration, the teachers association, any particular interest group, or overly influential parents. We will ask questions and demand answers on any, and all, matters regarding the education deserved by all students. The B.E.S.T. team will support administrators, but challenge them when it is appropriate. The position of the teachers association is to be respected, but will not control the Board’s agenda. Active and vociferous parents must be heard, but not permitted to sway the Board’s objective of doing what’s best for all children in our district.

What happens if the B.E.S.T. team is elected in November? Some of the problems in our schools have been occurring for an extended period of time. It will take an equally long time to rectify those particular issues. A long range plan, implemented by a balanced Board of Education concerned with long term progress of all of our students, will address those. There are some problems, however, that are a direct result of an unqualified leader using a “rubber stamp” Board of Education to do what’s politically expedient, not what’s in the best interests of our children.

These immediate issues facing the Board of Education at its first meeting are many, but are not limited to the following. They are in no particular order.

• Reduction of guidance counselors and subsequent extreme burden for our needy students;

• Loss of vital paraprofessionals for our youngest students;

• Elimination of Math and Reading coaches and tutors;

• Lack of enough nursing/healthcare coverage;

• Expansion of Early Childhood education;

• Overcrowding in many schools;

• Implementation of further testing, which takes away MORE valuable instruction time;

• Continued hiring of inexperienced “teachers” (5 weeks of training) as opposed to teachers with 4 years of training, despite the fact that these inexperienced “teachers” cost more than $3,000 additional dollars per year to employ;

• Inordinate hours by principals working on teacher evaluations, which inhibit them from being the instructional leaders of their schools.

What are the B.E.S.T slate’s solutions? Dave, Howard and Andre will be dedicated to the basic premise that ALL of Bridgeport’s children deserve the same quality public school education that our parents and grandparents received. We will demand of our legislators that the State of Connecticut adopt and implement legislation that fully funds the Education Cost Sharing formula over the next 5 years. It’s currently under-funded by over than $763 million. We will ensure that civility is the norm on the Board of Education, and that all voices are heard and valued.

CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) states:

Good board members: Put children first
Believe in public schools
Maintain high standards of conduct
Treat all individuals with respect

We shall.

B.E.S.T. Team



  1. It is a curious year when the Democratic Slate is supporting the “better” candidate, Steve Best, who happens to be a Republican. Steve has been attending all the BOE meetings this past year and like Andre, Dave, and Howard has his own ideas about needed attention.

    If the candidates who are elected can come together and respectfully discuss the current state of the schools and school funding directions, the public school system may be well served.

    Regarding funding, a subject I keep referencing, will someone ask Mayor Finch about his short funding a year ago with a $1 Million takeback and failure to fund the MBR of $3.3 Million in the current year? There is such a profound silence on this matter from all sides. Did it get resolved and I missed it?

    Do I sense a number of the items on the list are parts of the previous “failing educational system” in the City and might return us to the status quo ante? Talented, committed and caring teachers present for quality instructional time are certainly needed to make progress. They and the public school administrators have contracts upcoming. Does anyone have comments on the directions such negotiations might take to improve results and be fair to hard-working professionals? I have heard no suggestions, but I have heard such a return to what may be called, the “Ramos status quo” in terms of school system organization will create a need for additional local taxes, but no indication of whether that changes anything else, especially results, for kids in the classroom.

    One month to prepare for casting your three votes for BOE. See how much you can learn from each candidate. Educated, experienced and respectful candidates will be able to show how they can approach the current operating system. The more they understand where it is and where it can go, the better they will able to assemble the necessary resources of all kinds to maintain the momentum of reform. Time will tell.

  2. Where is the present BOE on fiscal issues? Where are the current BOE members as well as BOE candidates on the subject of contract negotiations with teachers and administrators?

    Why is there such silence on such issues before an election? And why is the City of Bridgeport shirking from its financial responsibility, Mayor Finch and Council President Tom McCarthy? An action shot of a shovelful of soil at a school building site is not heavy lifting. Paying decades of bond payments including interest is heavy lifting for taxpayers. No comments on the subject of increasing debt in the City from one year to the next! No public hearing on review of the external audit each year with the Mayor answering questions from the public! No review of City debt trends by the Budget & Appropriations Committee from one month to the next when they meet, without the benefit yet of a monthly financial report for July or August 2013. Charter failures/violations for the Finance Department! They are two for two in this fiscal year.
    Is there an elephant in the City’s money room? Is there a herd of elephants? If we listened to the communication of these intelligent mammals, what would they tell us too many are afraid to say?
    I received an email regarding ‘term limits’ this week, suggesting municipalities restrict elected officials to two terms only: first term to elected office and second term to a jail cell … following the experiences of Chicago, Detroit, and a bankrupt city in California, perhaps? Time will tell.


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