School Board Issues City Ultimatum, Pay Up Or Get Lost

The Board of Education says it’s time for the city’s rent-free Lighthouse Program, popular with some parents, to pay $500,000 in rent.

From CT Post reporter Linda Conner Lambeck:

The Board of Education is putting the city on notice: pay it $500,000 or find somewhere else to run an after-school and summer program for some 2,600 children.

The board voted 6-3 on Monday to send a letter to program director Tammy Papa, saying the fee is due by May 15. If not received, the program would have to relocated as of July 1, according to school officials. That is when the five-week summer program begins.

Board members Sauda Baraka, Howard Gardner, Maria Pereira, Ben Walker, Annette Segarra-Negron and Rafael Fonseca voted in favor of the ultimatum. Board Chairman Joe Larcheveque, Dennis Bradley and John Weldon voted no.

Full story here.



  1. But let’s just make sure it’s a level playing field. Charge everyone for time taken. No playing favorites.
    If the city libraries wish to make a play for a number of sites then they get into the game too.
    If charter schools or parochial schools want in, so be it.
    Do I hear $501,000?

  2. Lighthouse has no board or commission like other City departments and, according to its own fiscal report, shared in the past year with the BOE, operates with about $4.5 Million of revenues. $1.7 from the City, $850,000 in family fees, and $2 Million or more from State of CT grants and programs. Healthy revenue for a program that serves about 2800 youth around the year actually and annually with afterschool and summer programs.

    Look at the City budget request info each year for recent years. No info about family fees! Indeed the reports have consistently said that REVENUES are NOT AVAILABLE. Is this a Bridgeport form of “alternate truth?”
    And this department is not the only one that does not report their Grant revenues even though routinely these have amounted to more than $2 Million. Nothing said about the quality of the programs! Nothing said about alternative programs like Burroughs Wakeman who do include sufficient revenues in their budgets to cover expense of real estate use, but why not if not-for-profit programs can run more efficiently, almost twice as efficient? Bridgeport always has nice people who are pleasant and friendly, but where is the effort at spending the dollars efficiently and reaching more youth or same number better or applying funds in other ways to create opportunities for underserved City youth? When Lighthouse refers to partners like the BOE, what do they mean? How many people in the City are on the receiving end of some of the $4.5 Million? Time will tell.

  3. The Lighthouse program is a true success story among decades of BOE across-the board failure. The Lighthouse Program has probably been providing the only positive academic/social/personal stimulation and support for the neediest of Bridgeport kids during the past nearly 20 years of its existence. I personally know several participants and graduates of the program who went on to academic and job success because of the program. And they shared many more success stories with me over a period of years.

    Examine the accounting practices/cash flow of the program if necessary, but don’t do something as foolish as jeopardizing the program over an issue that can surely be negotiated. The BOE desperately needs something (e.g., the Lighthouse Program) to add positive momentum to its otherwise failing efforts. Bridgeport kids need this program, and much, much more that doesn’t appear to be in the pipeline.

  4. You raise one situation known to you that provides anecdotal evidence that Lighthouse is worthwhile. I am aware of another youth who earned important dollars for him while he worked for the program after school. He became wise in the reporting process and could complete poorly reported work of others. That was a worthwhile talent, obviously.
    However, the program has sat with the same number of youth served for the past half-dozen years and that is only about 1/7 of the youth in public schools. They have used BOE schools with no rent payment in their budget. When you understand that Wakeman-Burroughs has served a similar after school and summer population for the past five years, and that Burroughs has real estate expenses for its two locations, yet has only a $2.5 Million operating budget annually in contrast to Lighthouse budget of $2 Million or more greater, how do you respond? Don’t you believe in getting more for your money in terms of quantity and quality? Time will tell.

  5. John: Burroughs-Wakeman pays rent and taxes? Burroughs-Wakeman serves as a BOE adjunct program only for Bridgeport kids?
    And my anecdotal evidence is based on 20 years of following the program and the involvement of dozens of Bridgeport kids. But maybe a formal study and comparisons are merited(?). In any event, I feel confident in my assertions. The Lighthouse Program has been a very valuable asset for Bridgeport and its kids and deserves support–as do Bridgeport’s underserved youth.

    1. Jeff, where has any member of the BOE stated the Lighthouse Program/similar program is not needed? The BOE has “supported” the Lighthouse Program and its significant financial burden for over 20 years.

      Based on our cost analysis they should be paying the BOE $3.3 million. We are charging them $500,000. That is more than fair.

      The reason we are writing to her now; is that she either pays the $500,000 she was fully aware the BOE voted to assess the program, or she has three months notice to find churches, vacant diocese buildings, and/or community centers to run her Summer Programs. This also gives her five month’s notice to find locations for the next school year. We have given her fair and appropriate notice.

      What I highly doubt is that she finds any locations that will not charge her rent, utilities, refuse costs, supply costs, etc.

    2. Jeff, my daughter attended the Lighthouse Program for one year at Roosevelt School. It was pretty bad. Every time I would go to pick her up the children would just be running around the gym, her homework was rarely completed, and she was being bullied.

      Ms. Baraka shared that her daughter and son-in law had to notify Lighthouse staff to STOP assisting their children with homework because it was consistently wrong. This was at Black Rock School.

      Staff are not required to be “certified” staff/educators. In fact, the Lighthouse Program is a significant slush fund for patronage jobs for Mario Testa and Mayor Ganim.

      When FUSE was fired from turning around Dunbar School; the director of FUSE at Dunbar was hired by Mayor Finch. His $130,000 salary was budgeted in the Lighthouse Program when he had NOTHING to do with the program. When Ganim won; deputy CAO Gina Malheiro, who had ZERO governmental knowledge/experience, had her $100,000 salary buried in the Lighthouse Program. She has NOTHING to do with the Lighthouse Program. She was busy bringing us new parking meters that are costing taxpayers $500,000 in year one and are acting as “Big Brother.” Tammy Papa gave herself a $15,000 raise in a single year.

      We found out in the Finance Committee that the BOE was funding 100% of the cost of the Thomas Hooker, Waltersville and Barnum School Lighthouse Program, however Tammy Papa was collecting the parent fees and keeping them for her Lighthouse Program instead of remitting every dollar to the BOE to offset our costs.

      Marlene Siegel emailed her a few weeks ago regarding the $500,000 payment. She replied she didn’t “budget” for it and that Marlene should contact Nestor. Marlene did so and he basically stated the city was not going to pay it. Marlene said she would reduce it from our MOU amount and he had the nerve to reply that she could not do so because it was part of his budget as if the $500,000 Lighthouse Program payment isn’t build into our budget.

      Howard Gardner requested Ken Flatto, Nestor, and Tammy Papa attend our Finance Committee Meeting last week to discuss this and other matters. They ALL refused to attend and none of them showed up. Oh well, we tried.

      When someone doesn’t pay their rent in the real world they get evicted. Tammy Papa believes because she had a close personal relationship with Ganim, fills the Lighthouse Program with Mario’s people, and she is related to a high-level cabinet member; she can do whatever she wants.

      Joe Larcheveque, John Weldon and Dennis Bradley voted against taking action to collect the funds creating another $500,000 hole in a budget that lost $911,000 from the state, lost another $250,000 from the state over Christmas break in the middle of the school year. This is after we made devastating cuts totaling about $15,000,000 due to Mayor Ganim and the entire City Council voted to give the BOE ZERO additional funds this school year.

      Neither Dennis Bradley nor Joe Larcheveque have EVER offered a single suggestion to make reductions to balance our budget, but they vote no on anything Danny Roach and Mayor Ganim don’t support. I assure you, neither could come up with a plan to offset the $500,000 loss of revenue causing the budget to be unbalanced. Their loyalties are not to the BOE or our 21,000 students. They are loyal to the Democratic powers that be.

      Joe Larcheveque is an absolute RINO which is a Republican in name only. What true Republican would be consulting with Danny Roach, Joe Ganim, and Mario Testa? Exactly, no true “Republican” would.

    3. Jeff, if you read my initial statement you can see I indicated Burroughs-Wakeman (a not-for-profit) has as part of its operating budget, real estate expenses that they pay in addition to the other similar expenses of such youth programs.

      I also intended to leave an impression B-W served after school and summer populations of similar size for a number of years, although programs change and populations vary over longer periods of time. I did not report all of the B-W youth served are from Bridgeport, only the age and service needs of the 2600-3200 served is similar.

      What I intended to convey is in the past several years the revenue to Lighthouse has almost doubled that of B-W, without real estate expense.

      I also wanted the public to understand Lighthouse indicates Revenues are NOT APPLICABLE when it files its Department budget annually. When their own report, shared with the BOE, actually indicates $850,000 of revenues from registration and program fees, why aren’t those number part of the City budget process?

      For that matter who handles those funds? What account do they end up in? Are they subject to the external auditor? Where are they reported to the City Council or to taxpayers? How recently were accounting anomalies including misappropriated funds part of a Lighthouse story in the CT Post?

      If I were a parent paying a fee, why shouldn’t my contribution show up as a revenue source for the program?

      B-W has a directors group that are party to the operation and funding. Why do we have no oversight of programs for youth, especially in a day and age when those same youth can benefit from added focus, outside the classroom, on academic and other skills? Time will tell.

  6. Here is some factual information regarding the Lighthouse Program, Director Tammy Papa, and the City of Bridgeport.

    Last year the Finance Committee requested Tammy Papa attend a meeting, on two separate occasions.

  7. Maria, I stand by my opinion/assessment. It goes to the heart of what JML continues to posts about, mismanagement and allocation of taxpayers’ money because what the BBOE is really saying for the last 20 years. The BBoE was mismanaging and allocating funds that were budgeted to the BBoE to manage government assets and services relating to the students and their education and was given to the Lighthouse program.

    It’s the role of the BBoE and its capacity I state my opinion on. That’s just a structural concept. Some like the top-down structure. Some do it bottom up. I think the elected BBoE should work within the budget that is given and goals and service set by the government.

    I’m not saying the government assets should not be used in this capacity, assets paid by the taxpayers. I don’t think the BBoE should be in the revenue-generating concept. The BBoE is saying a cost analysis for the Lighthouse program is $3.3 million, but you only want to charge them $500,000 because it is fair. Who is it fair to, not the students, that the BBoE members were elected to serve? They, the students, are losing $2.8 million out of the budget that was set for their education that is going to (I think) an independent after-school program.

    Since these programs are government funded by taxpayers, as well as what is fair, the operation cost to the BBoE should be paid. What that price or cost to the BBoE is I don’t know. But whatever the cost is it should be set in the BBoE budget and as a service for the BBoE to manage role.

    I’m not saying the BBoE is wrong to recoup the money Lighthouse is taking away from the students. I’m saying it should not be the BBoE’s role to set price in a revenue capacity. Where does the BBoE draw the line on who can rent out government buildings and in what capacity the use is for, because apparently for the last 20 years the city, BBoE, and Lighthouse have been implicitly taking funds that were budgeted for the students and their education in giving it to the Lighthouse program.

    In my opinion any entity wanting to us government assets should pay the city. If managing agents such as an elected board, BBoE incurs a cost. The cost should be paid to the city, and the city should charge the entity then budget the cost to the BBoE. If that is not done then the service is not rendered by the BBoE. The city, BBoE should not have these services paid on the back of lost funds in the education budget set for the students’ education and according to JML that’s just the tip of the iceberg of mismanagement and allocation of funds on the back of taxpayers by the city and BBoE.

  8. Robert, the Lighthouse Program is run on $4.4 million, therefore if we charged the entire $3.3 million it would only leave $1.1 for the actual program activities.

    That would leave significantly less funds for Mayor Ganim and Mario Testa to place their followers and loyalists into jobs. 🙂

  9. Trump’s proposed budget was released today. He is eliminating the 21st Century Grant COMPLETELY!

    This is the major grant that funds the Lighthouse Program.

  10. The BOE and Tammy Papa, et al., need to sit down and negotiate a way to maintain and improve the services, accountability, and (apparently) accounting procedures of The Lighthouse Program. All institutions have problems and glitches, it doesn’t mean otherwise very effective, institutionalized programs should be exiled or otherwise severely disabled. Fix the problems. Negotiate a way to maintain the program and its services while the program develops a means of contributing to the coverage of expenses incurred by the BOE in the course of their cooperative functioning. This program has been around for a long time and has many prominent supporters, including alumni of the program. I can’t believe enough $upport for the program couldn’t be mustered to allow it to continue and address its shortcomings. The kids of this city don’t need FEWER/hobbled after-school options.

    1. Jeff,
      Over the years I have paid attention to City governance of many types, with a specific view regarding funds involved. I have written about much of this Lighthouse material on OIB asking about specific productivity standards, fee revenue reporting, quality of instruction and tutoring, etc. Yet no one seems to respond. People seem to accept the status quo and go on to the next article; at least that is how it appears to me.

      Now you endorse a course of action, “fix the problems,” but what will you do to promote that?
      ** get a copy of the Lighthouse complete budget and comment, to whom?
      ** see what activities are provided beyond those covered by “service indicators” in each annual budget book, if any?
      ** ask why cash from parents and families of youth attending programs is hidden from public sight???
      ** $850,000 of cash is a lot of money, isn’t it? Worth pursuing?

      Like the $950,000 loan repayment in the last month of Finch’s administration for a Port Authority loan, perhaps from City bonded money with NO City Council approval for transfer of such funds. Has Ganim2 ever provided a comment on this? Or Ed Adams or other “city management” personnel who have had this program pinned to their list of “to dos” but what and when?

      And the Port Authority although housed in City Hall, but not a genuine City Department, was intimately managed by Messrs. Nunn and Sherwood (remember them making provision for their future transportation?) yet no accounting of revenues or expenses is part of any Port Authority report since December 2008 and Mayor Ganim has not yet filled the two vacancies on that Board though he has the power and there is only one community representative. Is this good governance or municipal efficiency? What does it take to look at the assets, liabilities and a profit and loss for these years? Have the affairs of the PA been reviewed by the external auditor and written up in the CAFR? Does anyone believe these are unreasonable questions? Time will tell.

  11. Jeff, this issue is not about the quality of the Lighthouse Program. It is simply about the Lighthouse Program paying reasonable costs associated with operating the program in 24 school buildings.

    As I made clear in my previous post; Tammy Papa was asked to attend two separate Finance Committee Meetings in Spring 2016 and failed to do so. She was asked to attend our Finance Committee last week as was Ken Flatto and Nestor. They ALL refused.

  12. Interesting collection of comments from Jeff Kohut, JML and Maria Pereira, three people who are normally prepared with facts.
    JML is citing the lack of open, accountable and transparent reporting by the Lighthouse program.
    Maria has provided the sobering facts of the matter, including concern with the academic component and DTC cronyism.
    Jeff is uncharacteristically short on specifics on how he has drawn a conclusion.


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