Parents Rally At City Hall–Urge Yes Vote On Charter Question

Susie Harrison
Susie Harrison, a city school parent, speaks at the rally today in front of City Hall.

Calling themselves “Parents 4 Progress, a coalition of city parents today conducted a rally in front of City Hall encouraging city voters to support a charter revision question on November’s ballot that calls for a mayoral-appointed Board of Education.

Supporters of the measure, including the education reform group Excel Bridgeport that organized the event, maintain an appointed school board makes the mayor accountable for school improvements and provides institutional support to keep city classrooms moving in the right direction. The November 6 ballot question supported by Mayor Bill Finch has forged a coalition of forces working both for it and against it. Those opposed to the question include the Bridgeport Education Association, Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition and Connecticut’s Working Families party that has three of its members on the elected school board. They claim the most accountable board is elected by the people.

Supporters of the question point to the progress they maintain took place under an appointed school body during state control of city schools. The Connecticut Supreme Court invalidated state control and ordered a special election that took place in September. Parents for Progress members claim a number of positive changes over the last year under Superintendent of School Paul Vallas, the turnaround specialist brought in following state control of schools, such as closing a $19 million budget deficit without laying off teachers and guidance counselors or slashing high school sports programs. Finch is putting his prestige on the line in support of the ballot question at just about every public function.

Jessica Martinez was one of about two dozen parents that called on city voters to support the ballot question November 6.

“Come Election Day, we have a very simple choice to make,” Martinez said. “We can vote yes on the charter revision referendum and choose better opportunities for our children and a better economy for our city, or we can vote no and choose more failed leadership, more wasted tax dollars and public schools that lag behind the rest of the state. The answer is obvious: vote yes!”

“The results have been amazing,” said Susie Harrison, mother of a child at Luis Muñoz Marin School. “Our kids finally now have up-to-date textbooks; our kids can now take college courses while still in high school; and our kids now have a better chance of getting into a Pre-K program where education should start.”

The parents pointed to student achievement progress in both Hartford and New Haven, cities with mayoral appointed school boards.

“For too long we have allowed failed leadership to run our schools and as a result we have horrible test scores, pathetic graduation rates and many parents who have lost hope,” said Kislene Bosse, mother of a child at Hall School. “This past year, we have finally seen real progress thanks to an appointed school board and we have to keep that progress going. That’s why I am voting Yes in November.”

A mother at Multicultural Magnet School and Central High School, Laura Maranon said, “Over the last year, my daughters and I have seen the number of opportunities for high schools students grow. None of this would have been possible without the changes in leadership that put the bad old days behind us. The best way to make sure we keep moving forward is to stick with the kind of leadership that has worked for teachers, students, and parents.”

“The choice for our city is clear,” said Maria Zambrano, Executive Director of Excel Bridgeport. “We have an opportunity in 25 days to keep our schools moving forward. The system we had before did not work and going backwards is not an option. We owe it to our students and to our city to choose progress on November 6. I choose kids and I choose better schools. Join me in voting yes.”

“Over the next several weeks, Parents for Progress will be doing everything we can to educate voters about what the charter revision means for our schools and our future,” Martinez added. “We will make sure every voter knows that they have the power to keep Bridgeport moving forward, just as President Obama has said. This is our city, this our choice. And we know that once the voters know what’s at stake, they will choose progress on November 6.”

Fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee, a regular commentary contributor to OIB, attended the event. Lee, who’s opposed to the ballot question, shares his perspective.

Mayor Finch with one son and several PFP adults with children in the schools along with Maria Zambrano of Excel spoke to about 20 adults and perhaps 25 children (non-voters) at City Hall on Lyon Terrace. The emotional focus was on schools being built, textbooks in the classroom, HS seniors attending local college programs, technology in the classrooms, obviously everything happening because an APPOINTED BOARD hired a NEW SUPERINTENDENT and this six months of progress should continue.

No one should disagree on the importance of progress and advancing educational futures for Bridgeport youth and I do not. However, when the words ‘control’ and ‘accountability’ crept into the comments from the lectern, there was nothing but pure assumption as to how turning over the nine BOE positions to Mayoral appointment would improve matters and require that voter parents and taxpayer parents give up your current vote for representatives who see things as you do.

Mayor Finch saw me with my Central Magnet HS ‘mentee’ Jose Lopez, who is in his junior year. Despite my OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT poster, he asked if I was supporting a YES vote. I indicated NO. As he turned and walked away, he said this was because I had no children in the system. To his back I stated that I am a mentor of Bridgeport students and that I question his ability to be genuinely accountable! Accountable for appointments to Boards and Commissions; for following the specific language of our current Charter; and for improving the City financial condition as well as informing the public as to fiscal metrics.

Since June 30, 2012 passed and when the 12th Month report was made public in August, he never has told the taxpayers of Bridgeport whether it was a good year (surplus) or unsuccessful year (deficit). And since very few people ask him about these things FOR WHICH HE IS TRULY RESPONSIBLE AND SHOULD BE ACCOUNTABLE, he gets away with a smile. No challenge. Enough of this, please, VOTE NO on November 6. There is a change agent in the Office of the Superintendent. State-appointed people have been elected along with former elected. Let’s see them pursue educational improvement for all of the youth. It’s not easy certainly, but a NO vote will make us less democracy and put things in the hands of Mayor Finch who has told us that SOMETIMES DEMOCRACY DOES NOT WORK!!! Isn’t that a clarion call for change? Vote NO. Jose Lopez spoke to Channel 12 also, his own sense of what has occurred based on 10 months of attendance at BOE meetings. Nine people on the BOE have a better sense of ACCOUNTABILITY than the one man with the big smile. Time will tell.



    1. I did not ask as Mayor Finch is regularly celebrated because his younger children do attend Bridgeport schools. I have heard one or both are at Black Rock School, but I have not asked about the reasons for that special situation, unless the Mayor has moved into the neighborhood? Come to think of it, Adam Wood moved into a home proximate to former mayoral candidate Rick Torres. Maybe the Mayor has thought of moving closer to recent mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster? That’s not a rumor, merely a flight of fancy, but stranger things happen in Bridgeport, don’t they? Time will tell.

      1. God in heaven would have to tell me Mayor Finch used his chits to move his children outside of his residential district … what with all the fine schools in the city??? And those extraordinarily talented children??? He has such love for his neighborhood and such contempt for the rich people in Black Rock it is inconceivable he would allow his children to set foot in Black Rock …

  1. Did anyone click on that banner to the right?
    “On Nov. 6th Choose Progress VOTE YES for Better Schools”
    If you click it on it takes you to that spineless gutless organization called
    Not only do they not have the courage to put their name on the banner but on the entire webpage the ad directs you to, not once does it mention eliminating an elected Board of Education.
    And they suggest if you vote Yes Bridgeport’s schools can be as good as Hartford and New Haven!
    Give up your right to vote and your schools can be as good as Hartford and New Haven!!!
    Excuse me, if I am giving up my right to vote I am expecting excellence far superior to those two districts.
    Spineless, gutless weasels. That’s all those excel people are.
    VOTE NO.
    At least make these so-called leaders in the city and the hedge fund managers from Greenwich tell the truth. Quit hiding behind a question the City Attorney’s office drafted.
    VOTE NO!!!

  2. Hey Maria Z, nice quote:
    “This is our city, this our choice. And we know that once the voters know what’s at stake, they will choose progress on November 6.”
    Why don’t we start by wording the question to actually reflect what they are voting on? What’s at stake???
    You are surrendering your right to elect a Board of Education. That’s it. Plain and simple. It has nothing to do with Paul Vallas and it has nothing to do with progress (real or perceived) over the past year.

    1. “This is our city”–what a joke. All these folks are from out of town or newly arrived or returned and think they are superior, have all the answers and the rest of us are jerks. Welcome back, Maria and Jorge. Twenty minutes in and you know everything. Thank heavens all those folks from Westport and Greenwich have your backs and the rest of your staff–where were you without the paychecks???

  3. It’s not just Bridgeport–it seems the movement to privatize education is nationwide (following the grand success of prison privatization). I saw what I thought was a good quote from Diane Ravitch (outspoken supporter of public education): “Standardized tests are a good way to measure what percent of your students live in poverty and what percent are affluent. The former school will be labeled ‘failing,’ and the latter will be a success.”

  4. When I first began to look into an appointed BOE versus elected, I contacted the State of CT Education Department and asked for a ranking of school systems throughout the state.
    They told me they didn’t do that.
    I explained I was attempting to compare schools performance to if they had an elected or selected BOE.
    They said I shouldn’t do that because it wouldn’t be fair.
    I guess Excel B’port can do it though because they’re not fair, they are fear.

  5. When we elect a President, Governor or other officials, do we allow them to pick their own staff? Yes, to do otherwise would prevent him or her from completing their task. Infighting is always allowed and even encouraged. It’s called p-o-l-i-t-i-c-s. It happens inside and outside both parties!

    We never elect The Secretary of Education, The President does that. We never elect The Governor’s appointees, either. To the victor belong the spoils, right?

    People who think they’re losing their vote underestimate the power of cooperation and dismiss the losses children suffer from repeated divisiveness. You’re not losing your vote, you’re gaining a functioning BOE.

    1. LE,
      As always you are right on top of an issue, but still off base. The City Charter does not refer to the Board of Education as part of the Mayor’s staff in the copy I have been reviewing this year. A local BOE may be elected, appointed or formed through a combination of elected and appointed. Interesting that the school systems with the best results, the most money spent per pupil, etc. have elected BOEs. Trumbull, Fairfield, Stratford and more.
      The power of cooperation or collaboration (towards a certain objective) is important as you indicate, unless some members of a group have other agendas. As we see in our City Council when elected representatives are also City employees or have relatives who are, can you expect them to vote on budgets and other fiscal matters without a conflict of loyalties? Can you at least see there is an appearance of conflict?
      So you are in favor of removing nine ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES who have campaigned for office on the BOE and change them to nine MAYORAL APPOINTEES. This is supposedly because Mayor Finch claims he is accountable. And he probably is prospectively. However, when you begin to ask of his administration the tough questions that deal with follow through, he just isn’t there.
      The divisiveness you mention in recent years was a change from the somnolence of some previous boards where accountability for funds, results, practices and progress were rarely to be seen. The questions raised by some Board members of the previously elected BOE did not get answered. Keep asking, I would say. LE would call that divisiveness. The appointed Board by the State worked effectively, and there has been progress under a ‘change agent’ reforming Superintendent. However, would a Finch-appointed Board have the diversity of thinking, freedom from conflicts and practical experience elsewhere the State appointed group shared? There is no evidence the Mayor appoints people with diversity of thought to Boards or Commissions. Also there is no evidence the Mayor is accountable after an appointment is made to publicly evaluating his appointments, making changes where necessary and having most of the appointees serving current, rather than expired, terms. Mayor Finch is not accountable at this time. Why put more on his plate? Just because he has had the power to line up the stars this way? Bad thinking. Time will tell.

  6. Only in Localized Eyes does the President get to select the Senate and House members. And I guess he thinks the same as far as the Governor getting to pick the CT Legislature.
    For as long as B’port has had an elected BOE, voting Yes is the same as giving up your right to vote. No doubt about it.

  7. Give up your BOE vote for the children of Bridgeport. This Charter Revision–while initiated by the current Mayor–applies to all future mayors, too. This is change. This is change you can make. This is change you can make happen in Bridgeport. Vote yes.

  8. LE,
    What have the children of Bridgeport received from Ganim, Fabrizi and Finch as recent Mayors in terms of public notice and discussion of the descent of outcomes on tests, attendance, functioning administration, community attitude, etc.? How has Bill Finch shown he attends to Charter duties to the public and to accountability for outcomes for which he is responsible today? And loading another $300-350 Million of “control” over BOE spending on top of all City-side jobs and spending, what good outcome do you predict? What’s your crystal ball (with or without the aluminum helmet) indicate? Time will tell.

  9. This is why we need a productivity index …
    You sound like someone who gets paid to ask questions. My crystal ball envisions a person who answers them. Unfortunately, he’s not granting interviews at this time.


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