Excel Bridgeport Responds To Lopez: Action For The Betterment Of Schools

Maria Zambrano, executive director of Excel Bridgeport, responds to assertions by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez:

Excel is a organization committed to improving the public education for all Bridgeport children so that they have an opportunity to go to college, have a successful career and ultimately, lead a successful life. Right now, the vast majority of Bridgeport students don’t have these opportunities. Right now, half of them don’t even finish high school and, of those who do, few are prepared for the rigors of college and the workplace.

Excel partners with parents, youth and community members to create a movement of people who are committed to improving the quality of education for all Bridgeport students. Through our efforts, we seek to be a vehicle for parent, student and community members to take action for the betterment of their schools. This past year, we supported the leadership of a group of parents who worked to solve what they felt was a critical problem in the school district: the lack of a robust parent engagement model in all Bridgeport schools.

For a better understanding of the work we do, I turn to Bridgeport parent, Jessica Martinez, who explained in a letter to the CT Post last month:

“Being a member of this parent problem solving group with Excel Bridgeport has completely changed my life and I’m involved on a whole different level. I now understand what is occurring in our school district, the resources that are available to parents and how to get more involved. I have increased my involvement in my son’s school and the more time I spend at the school the more I’m learning and growing into a parent advocate. Through Excel Bridgeport, I have met wonderful, knowledgeable, experienced parents that I can now call my friends. I’m proud of our group of parents and myself! My boldness has increased and I am now empowered to move forward as an active leader in my community and within the Bridgeport public school system.”

See these two letters in the CT Post for more:





  1. Ms. Zambrano, would you please answer judge Lopez concerns? It seems like you are dodging her questions which leads me to believe she must correct and in fact I’ll bet judge Lopez is right. Your move, Ms. Zambrano.

  2. Lopez isn’t correct. She’s a whiner and complainer. She never identified a hidden agenda about Excel Bridgeport. Lopez appeals to the fringe conspiracy theorists. What has Lopez ever done to improve city schools? If she’s so courageous why doesn’t she put her name on the ballot? Venomous since leaving the bench.

    1. Is the issue about me? No, it’s about Lopez’s allegations. What’s the hidden agenda? Of course Lopez has never had her own agenda, never ever. Blech!

  3. *** anna, whom I tend to disagree with on many issues brought up on OIB, does have a point on Ms. Lopez, no? Ms. Lopez like others at times has a flair for dramatics for city politics, education, etc. and brings out many points sometimes overlooked by the average citizen. However with all her credentials her alter ego has yet to take the ultimate plunge towards any important City or State seats where she may be able to make positive key changes. A strong voice without an agenda or action in time tends to get lost! *** Just Saying. ***

  4. Lopez scores 100 while Zambrano gets a 3 for the lame letters she needs to try to defend her organization. I hear she makes $100K leading this shill organization.

  5. Let’s review. Judge Lopez points out direct conflicts of interest, hidden ties between Excel and the Finch Administration, hypocrisies in Excel’s stated goals and the actions of its leadership; and Ms. Zambrano cites three Letters To The Editor!!!
    This isn’t a debate; it’s a joke!

  6. How does Excel Bridgeport plan to raise the graduation rate, and to make sure those graduates are adequately prepared for college and the workplace? How does Excel Bridgeport plan to get more parents involved in their children’s education?

  7. I read Judge Lopez’s editorial the other day and found it informative. And yes–Maria did not directly answer her allegations.
    However (Grin and lisawhite)–I do feel her response is valid because she is is giving you direct responses from parents of Bpt school children. The letter she posted (and the links) were all written by parents who are excited and energized to be part of the solution. To discount their feedback because you disagree with Excel is not valid. We keep talking about “what’s best for the children” and we all agree parental involvement is key. Here comes an organization that is trying to foster that involvement, yet you say their feedback is invalid? The link to the last item–the Bpt Parent Engagement group gives great detail on what Bpt parents are trying to do. Please re-read and tell me where you find fault with their efforts other than the fact they deal with Excel.
    Yes–the Judge was correct in questioning what’s behind the curtain. But judging from the letters, there are some parents trying to take control of their children’s future. We should embrace that, not mock it.

  8. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to applaud Carmen Lopez’ letter to the editor. It is fair to ask Excel and the rest of the education reformers to practice what they preach–integrity, transparency and accountability. There is nothing honest or inclusive about who they are or what there agenda is to date. Hard to imagine with all their self-righteousness that will change anytime soon.

  9. It’s just so easy to cultivate letters of support from a few parents when you have so many people on the payroll who have the time to make all the calls, schedule all the meetings and put words in the mouths of a few chosen parents. Some follow along and never learn to be leaders. Unfortunately they are put out there as leaders as they reach their level of incompetence. The Peter Principle.

  10. Carmen Lopez has asked some good questions. Don’t they deserve fuller answers, Maria? There is no one who disagrees that getting parents involved in supporting the educational process of the children of the community is a bad idea. But is that what Excel Bridgeport is primarily or ultimately designed to do?

    Didn’t Meghan Lowney, and parties who had retained her to act on their behalf, really aim to put “control” of the Board in the hands of Bridgeport’s Mayor, through whatever mechanism could be developed in a Charter Review process. ACCOUNTABILITY was not a word used by Ms. Lowney. ACCOUNTABILITY was a word used frequently by Mayor Finch to the Charter Review group, but no evidence was offered as to the when, what and how of the ‘A’ word. And the CRC did not look into the Mayor’s record of ACCOUNTABILITY while in office. Sad? But true.

    ACCOUNTABILITY is not a word used to describe the behavior of a civic leader who:
    * Has ignored providing 12 regular months of fiscal reports to the only official taxpayer watchdog we have as a check and balance on executive excess, secrecy, and partial truths. How can B&A handle their responsibilities?
    * Has worsened the already poor record of Mayor Fabrizi on timeliness of Board and Commission appointments such that quorums are often difficult to raise, and fewer than 25% of all such volunteers are serving in a current term.
    * Removed internal auditor(s) from the City payroll yet continued for several years to indicate a contrary narrative in budget presentations, alleging that we were continuing solid internal control procedures. He has not dealt with this subject openly.
    * Has failed to effectively increase the taxable Grand List while at the same time increasing City budgets with “ghost expenses” and “phony accounts” as well as holding education spending flat for several years.

    There is more, but as I continue to report, the culture of our Mayor’s office and the drive for more power and control takes us away from anything resembling ACCOUNTABILITY and therefore is dishonest and to be resisted. Perhaps Maria Zambrano would like to respond to the specifics I mention from the City side, rather than from the BOE side of City operations. There is a track record here, not a pipe-dream fantasy.

    There is a real need in this City for leaders, elected, appointed and volunteer to listen to citizens for what they see happening and how they understand the present. Of course, in return, those same citizens of Bridgeport need to be challenged to become more informed as to the way the City operates, who their Council persons are and what they do, and ultimately to volunteer, to discuss and to vote. Conversations I have had in the form of an informal four-question survey within the past two months with folks attending McLevy Green Thursday music suggest: violence, gangs and drugs are the most significant quality of life issues in the City; taxes, jobs and education are the financial issues of most concern; the bulk of respondents had no idea there was a Charter Reform group working or why they had been called into action; and fewer than 50% of those questioned could name even one of their two Council persons. Kind of incredible, but true. Only In Bridgeport? OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT. Time will tell.

  11. It’s very easy for Excel Bridgeport to say they’re for parent engagement/involvement. I work in the Bridgeport Public Schools where report cards are handed out four times a year. There are report-card conferences in November and April with afternoon AND evening sessions (each session is about 2.5 hours long). In all the schools where I have worked, there are some parents who have NOT shown for any report card conferences. How would Excel Bridgeport get those parents to care enough to come into school, to spend 5 minutes with their child’s teacher and pick up a report card? If a parent doesn’t care enough to pick up a report card twice a year, a parent won’t care about much else as far as their child(ren)’s education.

    1. Thank you for raising a subject that serves as an effective “reality check” on what some students, teachers, specialists, administrators and counselors face when attempting to work with “a responsible adult” caring for a student. Some fathers and many mothers are single-parent families. If they work, are in school, assist in care of other children or older family members, their plate is more than full. To the extent money is scarce, practical alternatives are reduced. Technology may be beyond budget or experience. Sometimes payments come late and services are cut off.

      A stable and secure home base is not the normal reality for many kids. A loving and caring presence in a home may see contact with the school as a low priority or a negative experience based on their own school history. No judgements are intended in this recital, but it is important to get the facts of individual situations, and the school professionals have each of these elements multiplied many times in a system with over 20,000 students.

      A final point is empowering parents who are already caring and engaged in school is one thing; however, the real question is how to increase gains in moderate participation by those who are not involved at all at a given time. What strategies are effective? What initiatives have Excel Bridgeport attempted in this vein during the past year and how have they worked? What parents who were not coming to school, failing to talk with teachers by phone, or ignoring report-card conferences have gotten into the field and “off the bench?” That would be positive. Time will tell.

  12. *** It’s academic freedom to voice your opinion on matters of the heart, family, religion or politics, etc. And when one has the public credentials such as Judge Lopez has to hopefully make a positive change in the present status quo, it makes people sit up and take notice and wonder why she doesn’t make that community leader move! ‘Til then, we’ll continue to watch and listen to her insight and ability to point out things that are not so obvious to the average citizen about city and state government that affects us all! *** STAYING IN TOUCH! ***

      1. i knew Carmen when we both went to SHU. One professor had the audacity to tell Carmen she shouldn’t go to law school–it would be a waste of time and a seat in class. Carmen had the attitude and audacity to prove that professor absolutely wrong!

  13. Mojo, I respect her way of expressing herself on issues. That is her choice and I totally support her in what she decides to do. I wish there were more people like her.


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