During the next four weeks leading to election day November 5th, OIB will feature commentaries from Board of Education candidates. Republican Joe Larcheveque shares his vision on behalf of school kids.
The children of Bridgeport always seem to be caught at a dangerous crossroads, watching in dismay as rival factions collide, achieving little for our children. This year shapes up to be no different, as lines have been drawn and actions predestined, even before they have had any opportunity to constructively discuss and debate the issues. I decided to run because I am a parent of three children in public school and I see a broken Board, unable to push past party pressure, animosity and bias. They have lost focus on their one true mission, providing the best for our children. We must restore the Bridgeport Board of Education to a civil, transparent body that works together to create a great public school system for all of Bridgeport’s children.
I grew up on the East Side of Bridgeport. My parents sent me to both public and parochial schools. I pursued a career in emergency medical services, which started in Bridgeport in 1985. I am now Deputy Chief of an area non-profit emergency ambulance service. My experiences working with the citizens of Bridgeport, often at their most vulnerable, gave me insight into what it takes to assure quality services are provided to everyone, every time. I learned to work collaboratively with citizens, community leaders, healthcare providers and elected officials to best serve those who are in need. I will bring this same respectful approach to assure the Board provides effective guidance to the District.
The issues facing our children are many. They include a widening achievement gap, overcrowded classrooms, understaffed schools with overburdened teachers and safety and security concerns, just to name a few. In my conversations with educators and parents, I hear one consistently voiced urgent need; we must restore paraprofessionals to the classrooms, with an emphasis on the early grades. These positions are essential in assisting teachers and enabling them to make real progress with students. I will do whatever is necessary to assure these positions are funded and paraprofessionals return to the classrooms as soon as possible.
Also, once on the Board I am determined to institute the following strategies to engage our city and improve the District:
1. Promote Family and Community Involvement and Better District Communication. Our schools need to be the centerpieces of their neighborhood, responsive to local needs and input from parents and stakeholders. We need to support and encourage involvement in our children’s education and communicate effectively as we take into consideration the concerns and issues raised by the community.
2. Empower Our Teachers and Staff. We must value our educators and consider that the investment we make in our teachers and staff results in a greater return for our children and their future. Good teachers should be afforded the latitude to increase success in their classrooms and given a stronger voice in the District.
3. Demand Appropriate Funding and Transparent Financial Strategies. The city and the state lag behind in adequately financing our children’s education. We must secure proper funding without placing the load on overburdened taxpayers. I will look to forge innovative partnerships with communities, universities, libraries, trade schools, corporations and employers in an effort to redirect support back to our public schools.
4. Prepare Students for the Future. We need to provide quality educational opportunities for students that are college-bound and for those students who desire a career and vocational path, but not at the expense of the arts and humanities, as well as physical education and sports. We must assure quality building conditions that foster good learning and keep our most precious safe and secure.
Many will try and draw attention away from the hard issues impacting our kids and instead make it about one person and his lack of qualifications to lead the district. They conveniently forget that under the direction of a past superintendent who was officially “qualified,” we were faced with year-after-year of financial turmoil, service and staffing cuts, the threats of significant layoffs and even the closing of several schools. It appears that meeting the state qualification requirements did not provide the superintendent with the foresight or ability to forecast these financial struggles, even though he served for six years.
If the Connecticut Supreme Court rules in Paul Vallas’ favor, he should be allowed to continue the progress he has started, under the watchful eye of a fair and vigilant Board of Education. After careful listening, discussion and debate, I will support reforms that have been proven to work, and call for the end to those that fail our students.
Many parents struggle with the decision of where to send their children to school. Some choose to move out of Bridgeport or take on the burden of private or parochial school tuition. We have outstanding teachers and staff in our public schools and with hard work and a team approach; we can make Bridgeport a model of quality, community-involved public education. To start, we must restore the Board of Education to a civil, productive body that works together with one goal: giving every child in Bridgeport access to the best learning opportunities.
We will provide a bright future for our children.