Harding’s No Hardy Har Har, Plus: Humane Society In Dick’s Dog House

Update: Finch statement on Harding included

Harding High School is sick and needs an operation. No, a renovation. No, a transformation.

The 85-year-old school enjoys a creative inspiring principal in Carol Birks, dedicated teachers, resilient kids learning under disgraceful learning conditions. The building is a disaster. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont sings at the chance to highlight the kids he taught there as a volunteer years ago. I hope, if he becomes governor, Ned puts his money (our money) where his mouth seeks votes. Is he all talk and no action?

A community meeting is scheduled to take place tonight at the Aquaculture School next to Captain’s Cove Seaport and P. T. Barnum Apartments to bring attention to the school’s despair. Education officials and city pols are expected to be in attendance. Harding needs a champion. Harding needs respect. Harding needs a new school. Harding needs a single-minded pain in the ass to further its cause. It’s frustrating for parents and Harding advocates, frustrating for local education officials. Where do we get the money? Where do we build it? Lots of teeth-gnashing. No creative solutions. Is there room at Bullard Havens or UB while a new school is built? Can you build a new school on the existing Harding athletic field? Is anybody getting this???

Statement from Mayor Finch 

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch today announced that he will be amending his proposed Capital Spending Plan to provide $10 million for the construction of a new Harding High School.

The announcement comes after weeks of meetings between the Mayor, the Board of Education President Barbara Bellinger, Budget Chairman Pat Crossin, City Council President Tom McCarthy and Superintendent John Ramos. This decision also was based on information received from education advocates and parent groups.

Funds to rebuild Harding High School were approved by the State of Connecticut in 2002. In 2006, those funds were returned to the state because the City of Bridgeport could not identify a site to relocate and build a new high school. These events pre-dated the Finch Administration.

Board of Education staff and the Board of Education’s Construction Management consultant have assured the Mayor that the current location can be utilized to build a new high school and is an eligible site to receive state funds. This decision, and its expected approval by the City Council, will enable the City to move forward with filing an application on June 1 of this year to receive state funds to build a new Harding High School.

The Mayor’s spending priorities to date have been focused on renovations, and the construction of two new magnet schools for which the City receives a 95-percent reimbursement from the state. These schools, the new Discovery Magnet School and the Interdistrict Magnet High School, will provide hundreds of new seats for Bridgeport students and will help lower class size. Given the financial challenges the City faces, this spending plan provides the most fiscally prudent path to pursue and one which would help the greatest number of students in the shortest amount of time.

Finch stated, “As a parent of public school students, I am very much aware of the inadequacies of several of our facilities, and will continue to fight at the state level to secure more funding to rebuild or renovate our schools. Improving schools is the most important civil rights issue of our time. My priorities to date have been based on the projects that are most responsible for Bridgeport taxpayers, and which would help the greatest number of our students in the shortest amount of time. I will be putting a lot of pressure on the Board of Education and its Construction Management consultant to ensure that the City does not make the same mistake twice. Proper siting and planning for this school is critical. I welcome input from parents and students in this process.”

Gwen Samuel of the child advocacy group stateofblackct.org sent out the following email to rally support of Harding.

This is Gwen Samuel, Chairperson/Parent leader of the State of Black CT Alliance. State lawmakers and myself had the distinct pleasure of meeting some awesome Bridgeport parents and young people, some preparing to go to college, at a tour of Harding High School.

I had the not so pleasant experience of knowing that this “dungeon like” school, that I saw built in 1925, with its crumbling cement patched up walls, “undisturbed” asbestos walkways in the auditorium, gaping hole under a sink, very very limited, one would argue NO textbook classrooms is the home of over 1200 students and to add insult to the injury, they were removed from an “improvement” list citing, in so many words, that their condition was so bad they were not worthy of renovating YET parents must send their kids there. It is clear that depending on where you live in Bridgeport and your socio-economics some parents have choices and clearly others do not matter!


1. Why isn’t Senator Gaffey and Representative Fleishmann co-chairs/lawmakers of the CGA Education Committee made aware of this situation?

2. Why is the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for Education not aware of this? Secretary Arne Duncan has appointed many staff to investigate Civil Rights complaints as it relates to closing the achievement gap/education and this a violation if I have ever seen one!

3. Why is the Governor’s new “Education Gap” Commission not made aware of this? 

4. Where is the State Department of Education? Look at the Race to the Top remarks from the FEDS and you will see why this is allowed to happen in Bridgeport

Bridgeport is a priority District and to add insult to the injury again, based on the City’s decision making process, a non PRIORITY school will get all of the “attention” which clearly equates to “some students are not worth educating over others therefore one will not waste their time to improve their environment to foster learning, let’s not leave out safety.

This is disgrace and a slap in the face to all those students who just want a good education to improve upon their lives as they prepare for college or a career.

People tell me Bridgeport is not like Gaffey’s City of Meriden or Fleishmann’s City of West Hartford. The question in Bridgeport becomes who decides what children get an education or NOT. Clearly Bridgeport appears to be immune from the state supreme court ruling!

On March 22, 2010 the state Supreme Court ruled that Connecticut school children are guaranteed an adequate standard of quality in their public school … the state constitution requires “that the public schools provide their students with an education suitable to give them the opportunity to be responsible citizens able to participate fully in democratic institutions, such as jury service and voting, and to prepare them to progress to institutions of higher education, or to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy.” (Source URL: www.ctmirror.org/story/5244/state-supreme-court-rules-school-funding-case )

This is wrong and as a parent of color, this clearly looks like segregation, discrimination and classism.

You need State and Federal intervention!!! Parents may need to sit in the Governor’s office and lawmakers office until this matter is looked at independently.

This is immoral and wrong!

From Jim Himes

Himes Announces $50,000 Grant for HIV/AIDS Prevention Program

Federal Funding Awarded to Bridgeport’s Mount Aery Baptist Church for their Ashe HIV Faith Project

Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today announced $50,000 in federal funding for Bridgeport’s Mount Aery Baptist Church’s HIV prevention program. These critical funds will be used to make the program more efficient and effective in preventing and reducing HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.

“Mount Aery Baptist Church has played a vital role in our community by raising awareness and providing education on HIV prevention and treatment,” said Congressman Himes. “We must continue to work to reduce substance abuse by promoting safe, healthy behaviors to our nation’s youth, and to adults. These funds will provide much needed support to Mount Aery’s initiative.”

The Ashe HIV Faith Project offers community workshops in the area of HIV/AIDS awareness and substance abuse in the greater Bridgeport area. These workshops provide an opportunity to raise awareness about the impact of the disease in communities of color. Mt. Aery’s main goal is to ensure residents utilize existing HIV testing services and learn their HIV status. Clients are then referred to appropriate services for follow up.

“We are excited to have been chosen as 1 of 31 grantees across the country for the 2010 grant award of the Faith & Community Based Support Initiative,” said Dr. Anthony L. Bennett, Pastor at Mount Aery Baptist Church. “We are looking forward to addressing HIV/AIDS and substance abuse in collaboration with our faith based and community partners. Our staff is in place and ready to serve.”

Mount Aery was the only organization in Connecticut to receive funding from The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention Faith & Community Based Support Initiative (FCBSI). FCBSI seeks to provide mini subcontracts to 32 faith- and community-based organizations that have existing HIV or substance abuse prevention programs. By strengthening collaboration among faith- and community-based organizations, federal, state, and local governments, the initiative seeks to reduce substance abuse among youth, promote the use of HIV testing services, and decrease the impact of substance abuse on communities of color through education, prevention, and awareness.

From Dick Blumenthal:


Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today issued a preliminary investigative report on the Connecticut Humane Society (CHS) urging immediate financial oversight improvements and other reforms to avoid conflicts of interest by CHS Board members.

Blumenthal also suggested that the CHS Board release sufficient financial resources to meet its core animal care responsibilities, and that it conduct a thorough review of its practices and policies to address pervasive complaints of mismanagement, problems in animal care, and unfair and hostile treatment of employees.

Blumenthal’s ongoing investigation into allegations of misuse of charitable funds and resources has preliminarily found that CHS entered into financial transactions with businesses in which CHS Board members have a financial interest, and that oversight was compromised by the fact that one man served both as president of CHS and chairman of its Board.

The investigation has also found that CHS aggressively restricts a majority of its $52 million fund balance, potentially constraining CHS’ ability to fulfill its charitable mission of protecting animals within its care.

Blumenthal issued the interim report to provide CHS guidance as it transitions from the troubled leadership of Richard Johnston, who recently resigned as the president and chairman of the CHS Board of Directors. A broad range of allegations involve Johnston, including that charitable funds and resources were misused for personal and his own political purposes, and that Johnston had created an abusive and dysfunctional atmosphere at CHS.

“Lack of leadership is causing the Connecticut Humane Society to fail its core charitable purpose — providing care and stopping cruelty to animals,” Blumenthal said. “The Connecticut Humane Society now has a historic opportunity and obligation to revive and reenergize its leadership. Very simply, it must spend more on animal care, stop apparent conflicts of interest and respect views and rights of workers and volunteers.

“The Connecticut Humane Society cannot protect its animals without protecting its funds and resources. Even as our investigation continues, we urge the CHS Board to seize this opportunity — the resignation of its president and Board chairman — to reform its practices and renew its commitment to fulfill its critical charitable mission.

“The Connecticut Humane Society’s mission to protect animals requires sound financial management, a cohesive work environment and protections against conflicts of interest — real or perceived. We are recommending reforms vital to preserving public trust in this important charity.”

Even as his investigation continues, Blumenthal recommends that the CHS Board take immediate action, including: 

· Strengthen its conflict of interest policy, specifically concerning CHS contracts and purchases that may benefit board members or relatives;

· Release sufficient funds to address immediate animal welfare needs of animals brought to CHS; and

· Internally review and address all allegations and adverse management issues outlined in the preliminary investigative report.

Blumenthal said his office also plans to refer to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allegations of interference with the attempt by CHS employees to unionize.



  1. *** What else can or should be said, this State is going to the “dogs!” Even our heart-warming, furry, four-legged animal friends can’t catch a break due to CHS political bureaucracy doing its own thing, and for whom I wonder? Thanks once again RB, it’s going to be hard to find someone to fill your shoes once you’re gone! *** Time for every city, state & fed legislator as well as the Mayor & Governor’s office to get cracking on a new High School replacement for Harding. Every staff, student, family & friend of education needs to either pick up a phone, e-mail or write a letter to whomever their local, state & fed. reps. are! Why, ’cause election time is just around the corner & the squeaky voters are the ones that hopefully get the oil, in this case, school funds! *** Big Ups to “Mt. Aery” & Himes for the funding to help educate & fight a “silent killer” (HIV/AIDS) that can strike and affect any human family member any time in so many different ways, either mentally or physically. A tough job that not many wish to get involved with, let alone talk about! “¡Que Dios se lo pague!” ***

  2. Lamont’s plan for CT was interesting to read in yesterday’s blog. The plan has some merits. On the other hand, Malloy’s response shows he is basing his campaign on the past, his service time in Stamford and is hesitant to give specifics on a plan for the future. What 5000 jobs did HE create in Stamford? Major companies chose Stamford and built. He didn’t have to market the city, it sells itself. I’ll tell you 2 things he did … remove taxable property to build a road from the railroad to US1 and the other to expand a park. That’s Malloy’s plan for tax dollars at work. Lamont knows business and knows how to save money and make money. He’s the better of the two.

  3. Lamont is a Greenwich Blue Blood trust fund baby right out of the George Bush model. He’s a one-trick pony who exhausted his fifteen minutes of fame when he ran for Senate. Unfortunately he’s now hooked on being a celebrity.

    Right now I am leaning very much toward Malloy because he has actually run a municipal government successfully for so long. Can’t afford on-the-job training at this point in CT.

    Only reservation and it’s a big one … Think he might be held hostage by the municipal and state employee unions which need very dramatic change.

    1. “Only reservation and it’s a big one … Think he [Malloy] might be held hostage by the municipal and state employee unions which need very dramatic change.”

      Malloy is the dealmaker, he’ll be “hostage” to anyone that throws him a vote. Of course, that means half the unions are going to face that very dramatic change you’re talking about. 😮 Lamont will flip the whole party the bird if he thinks he’s right and they’re wrong (see: Joe Lieberman).

      That said, I’m leaning towards Mary Glassman–she can talk into a camera and isn’t a sleazebag. That’s a powerful combination in the current field.

  4. Malloy.


    Dick Blumenthal is not likely to endorse Malloy.

    Does this tell you something?

    Nancy DiNardo endorses Malloy.

    Does this tell you something?

  5. Wasn’t there talk a few years ago about the need to build a new High School to replace the present Harding high school? What happened?
    In the interim we are building 2 new regional high schools in Bridgeport for the more gifted students. These gifted students will end up in college whether they attend the regional schools or not.
    The kids at Harding need the help and they need it now. These kids are forgotten about by the BOE, the City and the State. There has to be land available for a new high school. How about the area in Remington Woods, after all the duty-free zone is all but dead. How about the GE site that is to be torn down shortly or so we are told. How about that large tract of land next to the school at the foot of Palisade Ave. Look there has to be a place for a new school. We found space to build 7 grammar schools I am sure we can find space for 1 high school.

  6. New Haven has been on a mission for over 15 years to replace or renovate every school. They have also made it a mission to house interdistrict regional magnet schools within the city to attract the region’s kids and their parents. While the kids are at practices or events, the parents troll the city and spend money and sometimes go out to dinner after the event concludes. It is an economic development strategy and an education strategy. Gazillions of dollars of State Bond Commission money has gone to New Haven to do this incredible infrastructure investment.

    Bridgeport has been late to the party but is catching up. New Haven’s largesse due to their highly focused mayor, who used to chair the School Building Committee (not sure what’s happening now) is on the Board of Ed and appoints the School Superintendent and most or all of the Board of Ed, AND their high-powered legislative delegation has now caused the state to increase the match percentage to get those precious bond funds. So Bridgeport has two problems before money can be put on the Bond Commission agenda. First, land with enough space for fields. Second, the match money. In my opinion, there is a third issue: there is nothing that focuses a mayor more than being responsible, truly responsible for education. Look at what Mayor Bloomberg has done in NYC now that he owns that problem hook line and sinker. The NYC education stats are going up dramatically since he took over responsibility for the education outcomes.

    Back to school construction, I am a huge supporter of the two new Inter-District Regional Magnet Schools; Discovery Museum site for the middle school which is now under construction; and The Wheeler Fairchild site for the high school which is still waiting for Trumbull to do their approval thing and get the parkland swap done with the Greenwood Street property. The Discovery site doesn’t take anything off the tax rolls but the parkland swap will take the Greenwood Street property off the rolls. Since it isn’t developed, there won’t be relocation and it will help solve the flooding issue in that neck of the woods.

    I agree that building a new Harding High School is a critical priority but the land needs to be clean or very close to clean. High remediation costs take away from the money that would go toward the classrooms. There is now a State limit on the cost per classroom because New Haven spent huge money on their buildings, some are “cadillac version” classrooms actually, so the State needed to rein in the rest of the state.

    The space that was found for the grammar schools took lots of property off the tax rolls. It had to be done but it was very painful. The East End school on the McKinley site was smart because most of that site was tax exempt but buying the additional property to reach the 8 acre requirement set by the Board of Ed was painful. Lots of people had to be relocated. The Barnum Waltersville combination school on the lower part of the former Father Panik site although vacant was also tricky since it meant that more public housing replacement had to happen spread out around the city. It’s being done but it has been tricky. The North Street school got rid of a crime-prone apartment complex that was very deteriorated but left the car wash due to the high cost of relocation. The beautiful school on State Street on the west side had all kinds of relocation problems. The swing space school on the UB site was probably the easiest since it was a turnkey. I heard the other day that there are teachers at UB that are mentoring the Columbus School kids that are housed there while their school is being renovated. They are learning Chinese and have those neat high-tech smart boards in their classrooms. I wonder how they will do when they return to Columbus School where there won’t have the smart boards. I think that Roosevelt School kids will be the next to swing into the UB school complex so that crappy school can come down and be replaced on site, no relocation.

    Where to put Harding High rests with the Mayor and the staff in the Planning Department. The School Building Committee co-chaired by Councilman Holloway has a real challenge to find a site that will not require huge remediation costs, will not have huge relocation pain and angst, will not have a huge impact on the tax base, and will be big enough to have a class A campus which the Bridgeport students deserve.

  7. Proposed new rule:
    All future Board of Ed meetings that take place in a school must be held in schools at least 60 years old until there are no schools that old.
    Don’t hold meetings where BOE members might feel good about what they have done. Instead hold them in schools that will remind them of how much work still needs to be done.

    1. Good thinkin’, Bob. And the maintenance department shouldn’t have to rush out and spruce up a building because the Sup. of schools is going there. He as well as the B.O.E. need to see the crumbling and disrepair due to age. I still don’t understand how a broken sink in the bathroom causes a student to have failing grades though. Or the graffiti in the bathrooms that appears out of nowhere right after they get painted. How about the congregation that begins in the stairwells near the cafe an hour before lunchtime? Widows get broken, walls get written on … Why are these students out of the classes and hangin’ around? Where’s security when all this is taking place??? Or the students roaming the halls going around in circles all day thinking no one notices them. You need to be in class to be able to pass. It’s more like a daycare center for teenagers rather than a learning establishment.

    1. I certainly don’t agree with their 3 reasons. #1 we make the same as the outside (in my field of work), #2 we pay our medical or at least half, on the outside the employer pays the full amount (in my field of work) and #3 I’m not the one who does all the hiring and not enough firing (they don’t want me doing that) so I don’t think this is a match to Bridgeport employees. I think when they talk about salaries they are referring to the admins not the real workers. They make way too much and do nothing. “Too many chiefs and not enough indians.”

  8. Since America’s inception, arguing and debating have been a part of our national culture. BLOGGING is simply an internet-enabled extension of these same values and virtues.

  9. Nancy Hadley, I read with great interest your comments about the New Haven schools system, would you please tell us what are the TEST SCORES for the New Haven schools?

  10. Finch is amending his proposed capital spending plan to include a new Harding High School? WTF! Did one of his advisers wake up from his nap? Did Finch have an epiphany? Or did East End district leader Ralph Ford call and say what the _uck were you thinking leaving out Harding? You could combine the entire Finch cabinet and not get one functioning brain.

  11. *** New Haven Schools are at least 10 years ahead in quality education & overall new school developments due to their current Mayor, BOE, State Rep Dyson & their city grants dept. As far as test scores are concerned, I have no idea? However, just because you lead a horse to water, doesn’t mean you can make him drink! *** “Build it & they will come,” how about a “tax deal” with Remington or GE for the land clean-up for a new Harding High, thus keeping it on the East Side? Hey Sal, show them how its done, homes! *** (wink) *** I’m not a big Lamont fan, he needs to be checked out further concerning his business ventures & political contacts. Seems like there’s a fox in the henhouse somewhere but no one’s been really checking it out? *** Suby’s been very quiet lately, what’s the story with her court filing on her past legal experience & whether she qualifies to run for SAG in the election? I think “not” girl, so make up your mind already or just stay where you’re at! *** Hey it stopped raining today but no rainbow in sight yet. Could be that Political Black Cloud over Bpt that’s interfering with things? ***

  12. Forget the damn casino. Malloy has the proper experience, he understands the problems of big cities. But if you are going to dig up the past … I supported Lamont for Senate, but remember who didn’t … Bill Finch. He was very public on his Lieberman support. Many Bridgeport Democrats, some with a lot of money, supported Lieberman too. Lamont people don’t like Finch, and don’t like Bridgeport. Hell I am sure Lamont doesn’t like Finch. Do you really think Lamont is going to be friendly to Bridgeport with Finch around? He surely wouldn’t give him a job either. If Malloy wins he might show some pity on Finch and hire him for something. Regardless, Malloy is the better candidate, I’ll support Lamont in 2012 for Senate over Suby who won’t promise she would stay on as Attorney General if she wins.

    1. That was always Finch’s problem. He speaks before he thinks. Makes big enemies that way. That’s why the Ganims hate him. Joe helped him get a job when he was out of work and losing his house. Then Finch was the first to call for Ganim’s resignation when all the problems started. Sometimes you just need to keep your mouth shut.

    2. That’s an awfully tortured way to try to make it sound like Lamont doesn’t like Bridgeport. But he came to teach here even when he wasn’t running for anything. What did Malloy do for the city before–or even after–he started eyeballing the Governor’s mansion? If you could bolt Fairfield and Westport onto Bridgeport, then Malloy might have some notion of how to address its problems.

      Anyway, who cares about Bill Finch? Lennie doesn’t even talk about what the Mayor’s opinions are on anything, Birdie has a few patronage gigs to share but you’re only a leader if you can make people follow. The opinions of TC and Bob Walsh are of greater editorial interest than Finch’s political preferences.

      But one thing you’re right about–we’ve got one candidate who’ll pass out jobs for political support, and one candidate who won’t. And I think you’re right about which one is which.

  13. Regarding Malloy as candidate for state GOV, there are at least some people who really don’t like him in Stamford.

    Search for this on Google

    “eminent domain stamford”


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