Lopez Claims Hidden Agenda Over City Schools

In an opinion piece appearing in the Connecticut Post, retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident, asserts the education reform group Excel Bridgeport excelbridgeport.org has a hidden agenda to control city schools. Officials of Excel Bridgeport say we have a hidden agenda for wanting to improve city schools? Looking forward to hearing from Excel Bridgeport. Lopez commentary:

There is always more than meets the eye, particularly when a mask camouflages a hidden agenda.

Excel Bridgeport, a new education reform group, describes itself in flattering terms on its website. It announces:

“1. We want every child in Bridgeport to have the opportunity for a world class education;

2. We build knowledge in our community;

3. We empower community members to be leaders;

4. We partner with the district and hold them accountable.”

Who can disagree with the noble and laudable activity of empowering parents, building knowledge and accountability?

However, a look behind the mask reveals a different and disturbing reality.

Empowering parents, building knowledge and improving urban schools are not new ideas. Twenty years ago, the Bridgeport Futures Collaborative, a Casey-funded initiative, successfully established parent training programs. When Bridgeport Futures ceased operation, parent training was carried on by the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition (BCAC), which continues to the present day. Also, groups such as the Child Guidance Center worked tirelessly to help parents remain involved in their children’s education.

Excel Bridgeport recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. It wants to head the parade of education reformers and consign established organizations to a subordinate role.

Anyone following the “reform efforts” currently ravaging the Bridgeport school district must have noticed the ubiquitous presence of Excel Bridgeport staff at government meetings. The executive director spoke before the City Council regarding charter revision. She urged the City Council to approve the mayor’s proposal for an appointed board of education rather than one elected by the people.

I guess that is how we empower parents.

The executive director addressed a recent Board of Education meeting urging the board to extend Superintendent Paul Vallas’ contract, while heaping obsequious praise on him.

A quick look behind the Excel mask reveals the reason for the praise and source of the tentacles reaching into the City of Bridgeport under the banner of Excel.

Excel was incorporated on Dec. 15, 2010, by Meghan Lowney, of Fairfield. Official records reveal that Nathan Snow and Lee Bollert are also incorporators. Bollert is a member of Mayor Finch’s staff.

According to the website, in addition to Lowney and Snow, the current Excel board of directors includes the following individuals: Jonathan Hayes, Joel Green, Robert Francis, Carl Horton Jr. and Joseph McGee.

Lowney serves in multiple capacities in and around Fairfield County. She is the principal of a consulting company, known as the Ripple Effect, executive director of the Zoom Foundation, a Steve Mandel-funded foundation, and the director of an entity known as Leadership Development Roundtable in Fairfield.

Those of you familiar with the state takeover of the city’s elected Board of Education on July 5, 2011, will recognize her as the “conspirator-in-chief” of the coup that led to the illegal removal of a democratically elected Board of Education by the state.

The now-infamous email exchange circulated among state officials began on Jan. 11, 2011, with an email introduction by Alex Johnston, the former head of ConnCAN and education reformer extraordinaire, to Lowney and Allan Taylor, the chair of the state Board of Education.

In her first email to Taylor, Lowney confided, “A small group of us are strategizing a Bridgeport charter revision campaign that would result in mayoral control of the schools. This is a confidential conversation of course.”

So much for building knowledge in the community!

Nathan Snow currently serves as the president of the board of directors. He is the paid executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Teach for America, a major player in the national education reform effort of the rich and famous.

Bridgeporters will remember that he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Board of Education in 2009. After the election results were final, he set about trying to clandestinely defeat through bureaucratic machinations those who had defeated him in a free and open election.

Robert Francis, a shoreline resident, is a nonprofit guru and serves as the executive director of RYASAP. The school takeover has proven to be very advantageous for RYASAP; it has just entered into a long-term contract with the Vallas-led Board of Education, a contract negotiated before an elected board consisting exclusively of Bridgeport residents can scrutinize it.

So much for transparency and accountability!

Also on the board of directors is Joseph McGee, a former employee of People’s Bank and sometimes referred to as the Paul Timpanelli of the Stamford business community.

Still hidden behind another mask is the funding source for Excel, although one could surmise that billionaire hedge fund operator Steve Mandel and the Lone Pine Foundation are actively involved.

Shakespeare said that the entire world is a stage and all that glitters is not gold.

Watch carefully, as the masks are removed in the next act of the Excel production!



  1. “Also on the board of directors is Joseph McGee, a former employee of People’s Bank and sometimes referred to as the Paul Timpanelli of the Stamford business community.”

    Pretty good line of credit 🙂

  2. Thank you Judge Lopez for assisting us in learning more about Excel. I happen to have become familiar with some of the people referenced above in community service activities through the years. At the moment I am hard pressed to know how many of them are property-owning, taxpaying and voting Bridgeport residents. I am happy to have the professional and financial support of folks who live outside Bridgeport, but also understand ‘carpetbaggers,’ with self-interested activity, may not live up to all of their posted objectives.

    The initial objective of “an opportunity for a world class education” will find no objection from me or others. One year ago the hall banners in Bridgeport schools about all students becoming college ready was laughable except as a betrayal in so many ways by the cynical activities of the “political powers that be” for so many years. That form of accountability is what the Charter Reform group ignored in its deliberations. Accountability requires a statement of what will be attempted with what resources and then a report card. The former BOE did not do that. The City administration did not do that from their bully pulpit either.

    “Building knowledge in our community” begins with providing information of many types in a systematic and timely manner, as required by various audiences. It also suggests the “builders” have enough intelligence, humility and sensitivity to provide instruction while doing some learning themselves at the same time. How reformers so clearly new to the scene gained so much access to the CRC process so easily is curious at best.

    “Empowering community members to be leaders” is another wonderful phrase. I am and know others who are property owners, taxpayers and voters who are also existing community leaders in different spheres and who have been so for years. What happens when such people volunteer and are ignored continuously, except when they cannot be avoided? Many fold their tents and depart. Others get less active overall. And some keep asking questions, including why some people are more equal than others.

    Partnering with the District and holding them accountable are dual objectives. The first part is very difficult when ‘partners’ at best are only allowed to be passive or are ignored for their contributions as happened with the BOE of lore. And accountability again begs for expected, attainable and results committed to, with resources that have also been provided per plan. Then all you need is a SCOREBOARD to note the hits, runs and errors that occur over time. But it would be a true start to OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT process in City governance. Let’s look for the scoreboard from the educational leadership, and if Excel Bridgeport has a model for what they have in mind, would someone post a copy of it, please? The devil is always in the details. But it is the details that reveal the real story of accomplishment or failure. Time will tell.

  3. Welcome back. You are a breath of fresh air, but does it have to be so much???
    Thanks for all the attention to detail; you help us, a lot.

    1. Céad Míle Fáilte!!! Hospitality away from home is very welcome, but recognition at home is even more welcome.

      I am faulted, kidding or not, with using too many words. Is it possible too few words have been used for too many years? That ears and eyes can no longer tune to the Big Picture or to the large storyline and therefore ignore the detail? I am not sure but it is good to know some people are reading. And maybe thinking about HOME RULE, you know, where candidates really run for office, prepared to share what they will do, and why, and disclose any conflicts to the voters, I will raise the issue of how many of the Excel Bridgeport group are Bridgeport property-owning taxpayers as well as residents as well as registered voters???

      To the extent they are well intentioned residents of other communities, for what reason did they choose to operate in the way they have? “A small group of us are strategizing a Bridgeport charter revision campaign that would result in Mayoral control of the schools,” are the words attributed to a confidential email. WOW!!!
      So this group of folks, a minority of whom were residents, taxpayers and voters in the City it would seem, undertook with the cooperation of a Mayor who is not really fiscally accountable himself, to change the way educational governance operates in the City? How offended would the folks in any suburb be if they found out “big money” had linked with power-hungry politicos to be in control of a Federal, State and local funding in excess of $300 Million annually? The Mayor picked the folks on Charter Revision ignoring volunteers who ask questions and seek real answers. The Mayor under Charter proposals gets to do a lot of appointing. Isn’t it interesting the CRC did not look at Mayoral appointments to current standing committees and what a poor record of timely appointments to keep committees full with ‘current’ appointees could be routine? Do you call that accountable Mayoral behavior? More appointments do not translate into more accountability!!! And remember the goal was stated as “control” and not ACCOUNTABILITY.

      Readers, tell us where these folks from EXCEL live, pay local taxes and vote, if you can. How do they feel about HOME RULE? Remember, “building knowledge” is their second objective to be kept in mind. Time will tell.

  4. As always, Carmen Lopez provides another excellent point of view. Voting for an appointed board of education does NOT provide parents any more input into what goes on in the Bridgeport Public Schools than parents already have now. If anything, an appointed BOE provides less parental input–does anyone honestly think a mayor–Bill Finch or his successors–will permit parents to have any kind of say as to who is appointed to the BOE?

  5. Additional information on the many layers of the “reform” onion can be had at Jonathon Pelto’s “Wait, What?” and Diane Ravitch’s blogs. A very devious and serpentine cast of characters involved. As I look at it, it appears to be all about the money!

  6. You want to know why Kristin Dubay-Horton Health Dept Director kept her mouth shut and denied she was fired? Because her husband is involved in what Judge Lopez reports today. He is Carl Horton, he told her to shut up and be quiet because this agenda means money in his pocket. She has wanted to come back to work but they will not let her. She wrote a letter she wasn’t supposed to write which helped one of her former dept’s employees. It’s darker than the judge thinks, much. The FBI is all over this; they have a line of people in their Hartford office.

    1. bpt guy, Kristin is back. I saw her at the annex. I agree she and Carl sold out for the almighty dollar. We’ll never know the whole story about what happened behind the mayor’s closed doors. But then again we never do.

  7. It’s all about THE MONEY. These f***in’ slobs are all about what they can rape the city for. Remember, they have to leave someday so they feather their beds so later they have somewhere to lay. These deals cost them nothing personally (city money), but on the backside later it comes back to them, they can’t steal it themselves so they give it out now to be repaid later, same thing as Ganim’s agenda with a different spin. The city is their cash cow, the piggy bank; it cost them nothing.

  8. Yes the FBI is watching, but it will take more people who know things to stop only thinking about themselves and tell the FEDS were to look for money paid to attys and outside consultants just like Trenton NJ. They hire substandard people to do work just to do payola.

  9. Great article by Carmen Lopez; great research also. I am so tired of out-of-towners coming here and telling us what is good for Bridgeport. These people live in the ‘burbs and have no idea what it takes to live and survive in Bridgeport. These out-of-towners have no idea what the students of Bridgeport go through trying to get an education.
    I am tired of our mayors appointing out-of-towners to positions in their administrations while qualified Bridgeporters are told to go piss up a tree.
    This appointed board of education is just another way to pay back local dumbasses by the mayor. You can see by past Finch budgets he does not give a shit about education.
    Finch has more open spots on commissions and boards than any other mayor I can remembers. So what makes people think he will fill all the BOE slots and keep them filled if we give him that power?
    To the suburbanites with an agenda, stay in your own town and do your goody-two-shoes act there.

  10. *** It should be no surprise there are many “connect the dots” areas when it comes to Bpt politics and their affiliates. Some are legit, some not, and others are right on the borderline depending on who’s checking, no? Nothing of substance would ever come from the new States Attorney and his office due to his friendship with certain individuals in Bpt politics, etc. Therefore it falls in the lap of the Feds and the local media to draw the type of attention needed to get things started. ‘Til then it’s just another day in da ‘Port, no? ***

  11. *** I know Lennie, how about State Senate or better yet let’s have an OIB poll on which community seat would be a good fit for her and the city in general. *** BOE, DTC chair, city council president, etc. … ??? ***


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