Achievement First Inc. pushing Finch/Vallas slate in Bridgeport Democratic Primary

Bridgeport’s Democratic Primary to select Board of Education candidates will be held tomorrow and campaign finance reports filed last week reveal that Achievement First Inc., the charter school management company co-founded by Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, continues to play a dominant role in the effort to control Bridgeport’s public education system.

The latest effort in support of the candidates loyal to Mayor Bill Finch and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, is being directed by Andrew Boas, the founder and principal investment officer of the Carl Marks Management Company and its related entity, Carl Marks Strategic Investments LP.  Boas’ claimed expertise is making money from “distressed investment activities.”

When not picking clean the bones of people and projects that have fallen on hard times, Boas is a major player on behalf of the corporate education reform industry and one of Achievement First’s most important supporters.

Boas is a long-time member of the Achievement First Board of Trustees.  He presently presides as chairman of the Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy Board.  He also serves on the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation, one of the vehicles that the corporate reformers have used to funnel money to Vallas and Bridgeport privatization efforts.

Most recently, Boas has been rounding up money for the Finch endorsed slate of candidates.

In one email Boas wrote,

“We need your help. The landscape for education reform in Bridgeport will be forever altered by the Board of Education (BOE) elections slated for this November.  We have several hurdles to overcome, including an unexpected Democratic primary on September 10, 2013.”

“I need your help in getting Katie Bukovsky, Brandon Clark and Rev. Dr. Simon Castillo selected as the Democratic candidates in the upcoming primary election.  The other democrat challengers running have been handpicked by the teacher union, and I believe will not serve the best interests of the children and families of Bridgeport.”

“If we lose, the opposition wants to make sure the Union contract is not touched in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement and they want to ensure high performing programs like Achievement First and turnaround models cannot expand in our City”

Boas went on to ask his friends and colleagues to give up to the maximum legal limit to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee and to also give the maximum to a political action committee that he helped create called Citizens for Students.

So who responded to his call to give money to Citizens for Students?

The list of new donors is headed by Jonathan Sackler of Achievement First, ConnCAN and 50CAN and Sackler’s wife, who each threw in $1,000.  Sackler, Wait, What? readers will recall, donated $50,000 of his own money to Finch’s failed attempt charter revision campaign to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by Finch.

Other donors to Citizens for Students included the City of Bridgeport’s Parks Director and the City’s Personnel Director, each of whom donated $500.

Another $500 showed up from Megan Lowney, the founder of Excel Bridgeport and assistant to billionaire Stephen Mandel.

Joshua Thomson, Finch’s “education adviser,” who used to call himself Deputy Mayor for Education but now reports that he is Bridgeport’s Director of Education and Youth Policy also responded to Boas’ call for donations.

And the latest Citizens for Students campaign finance report included a contribution of $500 from Attorney Ed Maley.  Maley is rather famous in the circles of Connecticut government.  Not only does he bill the City of Bridgeport for legal work but as the Democratic Legislative Commissioner for the Connecticut General Assembly he collects $56,000 a year on top of his Connecticut State pension of $111,000.

Lest anyone miss the message, as Bridgeport voters prepare to vote in tomorrow’s Democratic Primary, the corporate reform buzzards circle.

Oh, and as if the flow of money wasn’t enough to show how Finch and the corporate education reformers control the endorsed slate, in a weekend editorial entitled, CT Post Endorses Baker, Gardner, Hennessey in Tuesday’s Primary for Board of Education, the City’s paper endorsed the challenge slate writing;

“But one thing voters should expect from their elected officials is a degree of independence. No one wants school board members who will simply enact the policies desired by the city’s political powers, whether that’s a mayor or a party boss. There is good reason to believe the endorsed slate would be unable to offer that independence.

Upon meeting with Post editors last week, the three endorsed candidates were joined by Joshua Thompson, who works in the mayor’s office and is charged with carrying out City Hall’s education policies. The message, far from implicit, was that the mayor will be watching. If the mayor has worthy ideas for the future of the school system, by all means, the school board should listen. That’s a far cry from putting in place elected officials who will do the mayor’s bidding.

The city held a vote on mayoral control of the school board. It failed.”

It reminds everyone that above all else, it is fair to say that the concept of “finesse” is clearly not a strong point when it comes to Finch, Boas and the rest of the people trying to undermine Bridgeport’s public education system.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  The original version of this blog post identified Andrew Boas as a member of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund and reported that the Fund was part of the effort to funnel money to cover Paul Vallas’ expenses.  Although his bio reports that Boas remains active on these local boards, he actually left the Bridgeport Public Education Fund Board in 2011.  More importantly, for over three decades the mission of the BPEF has been “to develop programs and mobilize the community for quality public education in Bridgeport.”  The work of the BPEF has been highly recognized nationally by the Public Education Network. The Annenberg Foundation, The Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda.  The Funds work has been focused in three areas that ALL support the work of the Bridgeport Public Schools – teachers and students.  I apologize for suggesting that the BPEF was part of the education reform debate that is now swirling through Bridgeport.

I meant to reference the Bridgeport Education Reform Fund and the Good Schools Bridgeport Fund both of which are products of the corporate education reform effort in Bridgeport.

  • Linda174

    New NPE Endorsements in Bridgeport, Network for Pulbic Education.

    We are pleased to announce the following endorsements:

    Howard Gardner, Bridgeport School Board (CT)
    Andre Baker, Bridgeport School Board (CT)
    Dave Hennessey, Bridgeport School Board (CT)

    The primaries in both Rochester and Bridgeport take place in two days, on September 10th, so please spread the word.

    http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=jzoogdmab&v=0015qKm9V6FEG6_SQxIvTNiQgPwUt_vbVpYinreqQnM1QcmvBw4IhVCboUtYm5VSvGI8WAFEUbxVizB8sCNtRu9rH4JDWodLEfiVsO8Ion8Bt2fdtAufaELprIJ3CQ4LCCLFvhT9fxr25E%3D

  • Linda174

    Bridgeport’s only newspaper, the “Connecticut Post,” endorsed the same three candidates as the Network for Public Education. The newspaper wants to see an end to the rancor and it wants the board members to be independent. Their goal, like that of NPE, is to elect a board that cares about the students, their community, and their public schools, and is not subject to dictation by politicians and outside interest groups.

    http://dianeravitch.net/2013/09/09/connecticut-post-endorses-pro-public-education-slate-in-bridgeport/

  • buygoldandprosper

    Andrew has a nice resume in spite of his field of expertise. Like most financial leeches he takes a lot and “gives back” very little.
    Dan Malloy has embraced Andrew’s industry because Dan is a political whore who see’s opportunity when the smell of money wafts.
    Bridgeport is chock-full of corrupt politicians, like Dan, and a little cash goes a long way in that town.
    Mr. Boas should be embarrassed by his activities.

  • jrp1900

    It’s all very familiar. According to the humble Mr. Boas, the teachers’ union has “handpicked” Democrat challengers “who will not serve the best interests of the children and families of Bridgeport.” Of course, they won’t! As we all know, teachers are parasites: they are all too happy to live high on the hog, with their generous salaries and benefits, while enjoying great vacation time and showing no real commitment to the learning of their students. Because they have a great thing going, teachers band together into a mafia-like union, and they do their utmost to protect their own interest, while completely abandoning children to “low expectations” and “failure.” Now comes Mr. Boas with his Orwellian outfit “Citizens for Students” to save the poor little mites in terrible public schools from the bad old public school teachers.

    This stupid, deceitful and monstrous narrative would be almost laughable if it is wasn’t so effective. The corporate reformers understand that many parents in impoverished communities are desperate for some sort of hopeful change. And it seems to be a sad fact of human nature that you can manipulate desperate people if you get them to “buy into” the notion that the cause of their troubles is an easily identifiable “enemy.” In other words, by focusing on the evil teachers the corporate reformers are making use of the classic strategy of the scapegoat. As is amply demonstrated in history, stigmatizing a scapegoat is often a prelude to a reign of atrocity. I hope there are enough people in this country who understand that public school teachers are NOT the enemy. Otherwise there will be plenty of blood on the floor, as corporate reformers are bent on reducing teachers from esteemed professionals to mere “factory operatives,” who can be “flexibly” managed as the administration sees fit.

    Common sense tells us that most people go into teaching because they have a commitment to educating children. In many places, teachers suffer poor pay, difficult work conditions and stressful “assessments” and “evaluations,” and yet they remain in the profession, doing the best they can. How, then, does the teacher become the enemy? Corporate reformers like Mr. Boas often know nothing of children and they have no interest in the SOCIAL LIVES of poor people in cities like Bridgeport. Mr. Boas is not an activist for health-care, for affordable housing, for drug treatment centers, for family support programs, for effective monitoring of police conduct in minority communities, for job training and job opportunity programs, for enforcement of EPA regulations in poor neighborhoods, for wider recreational services and so on. No, Mr. Boas advocates the privatization of public schools in poor communities and he is allied, not with ordinary people in the community, but with the masters of Wall Street.

    Be aware that when a powerful privatizer starts shedding tears over poor children, you are in the presence of a weeping crocodile!

    • Sleepless in Bridgeport

      The very scary thing here is that when Andrew retreats to his multi million dollar estate behind the gates in Westport all his fellow neighbors think he is the godsend for charterizing public schools in poor cities. What the hell do they care? Their kids go to exceptional public schools or private schools called Hotchkiss and Choate (No AF or Dumjoke Academies for the “haves”).

      Problem: Public schools in cities are failing.
      Problem: There is less and less money available to pay teachers and fix buildings.
      Bigger Problem: The bulls__t fixers and fixes don’t stand a chance of working.
      Bigger Even Problem: Common Core, NCLF, and RTTT are all disastrous attemps to federalize education and shame on the Democrats like Obama and the Chicago Maffia for jamming this crap down poor children’s throats.
      Biggest Problem of them all: This is all a scam to give the hedge funders more dollars in their pockets so they can buy bigger houses in Westport and Greenwich. These people do not give one damn for the citizens of Bridgeport, New London, Hartford and the biggest crooks of all are named Malloy, Pryor, Finch, and Vallas.
      Damn shame that this all falls on the backs of the few parents in Bridgeport who truly care.

      • Castles Burning

        and the students . . .

  • Jennifer

    JRP1900, your “stupid, deceitful and monstrous” adjectives aptly describe all those behind AF, Boas’ initiatives, and the rest of the Orwellian outfit. Saddest thing is, things aren’t much better in Hartford either. Maybe it’s time we relocate all urban kids and their families to the highest-wealth communities and their excellent well funded schools (Fairfield County’s finest, along with Avon, Simsbury, Farmington, Glastonbury), shutting down the urban school districts entirely and locating all subsidized housing in thriving suburban neighborhoods while leveling the urban ghettoes and converting them into public greenways and park lands.

    • jrp1900

      Jennifer: I agree with all that you say. Our segregated society has no real future. It is already collapsing into its own contradictions.

  • Castles Burning

    Bridgeport voters have a good track record and the Boas approach does not seem all that “enticing.” The recent letters to the Post as well as the endorsement LInda174 links should also help voters away from the Finch gang..