Education Reform Industry goes down to a stunning defeat in Bridgeport, Connecticut

The tide continues to turn in Bridgeport’s Board of Education challenge slate wins big

The Connecticut Post made the story clear as they began their primary coverage with the news that,

“The Democratic machine lost its grip on the city school board Tuesday with the stunning victory of all three challengers in the primary.

The challenger slate won by a two to one margin over the party’s endorsed slate, easily winning in all districts, in unofficial and incomplete results.

Andre Baker Jr., Howard Gardner and Dave Hennessey received 3,409 votes, 3,284 votes and 3,308 votes, respectively.

“This is what Bridgeport needs,” Baker said. “We need some diversity. We need some change. It just goes to show you that although people may look at the low voter turnout, the people who were fed up came out. And I just hope this movement encourages more people.”

… “This is just icing on the cake,” Gardner said. “I see this as a victory for the city of Bridgeport because I think a lot of people have been disillusioned and disenfranchised.”

The endorsed candidates — Simon Castillo, Kathryn Bukovsky and Brandon Clark — collected 1,977 votes, 1,917 votes and 1,862 votes, respectively. The endorsed slate won among absentee ballot voters, but it was not enough to overtake their opponents’ victory at the polls.”

In many respects the primary was really a referendum on the education reform efforts of Governor Malloy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas.

The three endorsed candidates were supporters of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed attempt, last year, to change Bridgeport’s City Charter to do away with a democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by Finch.  Simon Castillo was the chairman of the political action committee that spent a record amount in the failed referendum campaign and Brandon Clark, a teacher the charter school, at Achievement First – Bridgeport, essentially served as one of the referendum campaign’s spokesman.

The reputation of the existing majority on the Board of Education, including its chairman, Kenneth Moales Jr. and their support for Paul Vallas was a driving force behind the challenges

For many, the primary served as the next logical step following the successful effort to bring a lawsuit ousting Paul Vallas as Bridgeport’s superintendent.  As a result of the law suit brought by former Connecticut Judge Carmen Lopez and her co-plaintiff, the Superior Court determined that Vallas lacked the qualifications to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent.  Thanks to upwards towards $100,000 in taxpayer funds, Vallas is appealing the ruling and the Supreme Court will be hearing the case later this month.

In the meantime, the pro-public education, anti-education reform industry movement is now positioned to take control of the Board of Education following the November general election.

Should that happen, Vallas’ days in Bridgeport are over, regardless of whether he is removed by the courts or by the democratically elected members of the new Bridgeport school board.

  • buygoldandprosper

    I see a state job in Mr. Vallas’ future !!!
    Dan Malloy…a corrupted politician who views rules, and the law, as a “distraction”.

    • Sleepless in Bridgeport

      I see a shovel and a barnyard in Mr. Vallas’ future. He brings his own bulls__t with him.

    • Eric Alicea

      Vallas won’t stay in Conn. if he has to leave Bridgeport. He has companies to run in other states. What really gets most people that I talk to is the fact that the laws were changed to accommodate him, yet he thumbed his nose at it.

      As a parent of children in BPS I want a leader that will 1) follow the rules (just get certified), 2) commit to Bridgeport (you know, make a career out of it) and 3) engage our certified teachers and stop the tfa tomfoolery.

      Yes, I know tfa was in Bridgeport before Mr. Vallas showed up, but I’m of the opinion that a handful of young professionals “testing the waters” of education to see if it’s a career move is vastly different from scores of non-certified teachers being placed in our schools too circumvent the hard working certified teachers. Teaching is not a profession that can be mastered in months, it takes years.

      • Luv2Teach

        Well said!! I agree, as a teacher who has followed all the rules, been committed to my students, in more ways than I can say, and who is tired of being treated like a programmable robot!! No one can program me to make kids LOVE LEARNING and love coming to school every day! This narrowing of the curriculum (6 Benchmark tests courtesy of Mr. Vallas this year) is almost too much to bare right now! I am sickened and heartbroken by the ‘teach to the test’ already in the year! This is NO way to teach and learn! 🙁 I am praying this good news really does shift the tides for us! I’m very hopeful that I will some day get back to some passionate teaching…

      • Eric Alicea

        I truly feel the tide is turning. I’m already getting responses from the people. The establishment was shocked at what happened last night. Come November, Mrs. Baraka and I just need to do our part. For me It’s all about the parents, children, and school community. We have a chance to really make a difference.

      • jrp1900

        Eric Alicea: I completely agree with you that the time has come to “stop the TFA tomfoolery.” I have children in a district which is also “serviced” by TFA and, like you, I do not think it is in the best interests of our children to have for teachers “young professionals” who aren’t even sure that they WANT to be teachers! As you know, many of these young people join TFA looking for “an experience” or in hopes that they can use the experience on their CV as they apply for law school and the like. This sort of opportunism angers me: my children are not in school to give these people “opportunities” and nor are they school to help advance the career of an ambitious Ivy leaguer. I always say if TFA is so good, send them to the suburbs and we in the poorer districts will take the experienced teachers, who will do better by our children.

  • Sad In Bridgeport

    I’d like to thank all who made the effort to vote yesterday. I even know of a few people with no children who cared enough about the city to vote Row B. To the Dems that lost- we gave you fair warning that we, as a city, were displeased, and you thought we were a joke. Who’s laughing now?

    • jonpelto

      Well said….the winds of change are upon us. The arrogance of the power elite and their sense of entitlement have blinded them to the fact that deep down – we are still a democracy – and while it is s cumbersome system – when enough people say – “enough” – changes can and do take place.

      • msavage

        “The arrogance of the power elite and their sense of entitlement have
        blinded them to the fact that deep down – we are still a democracy”

        Oh, how I want to believe that this is true. This victory gives me a lot of hope!

  • jschmidt2

    Jon- take a bow for your efforts in exposing the issues.

  • brutus2011

    Great result.

    I think it will be interesting to see 2-step Dan try to save political face.

    My bet is that it will be entertaining and that Jon will delight as his foil.

    This would be entertaining if it were a tv show and not about our children and our nation’s very future.

  • buygoldandprosper

    Where is Dan Malloy’s comment? Wrong skin color? Too busy in Quebec? Not enough press coverage for our busy Dan?

    BRIDGEPORT – Gregory Walsh, an eighth grade teacher at Winthrop School, is a state finalist for the 2013 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Program.
    His is one of three applications forwarded to the National Science Foundation for review by a selection committee this summer. If the committee recommends him as the Presidential Awardee he will be invited to Washington, D.C.
    The other two state finalists are high school teachers: Matthew Brodeur, of East Hartford, and Joshua Steffenson of Glastonbury.
    Presidential Awards are the nation’s highest honor for K-12 teachers of mathematics and science. Awardees serve as models for colleagues.

    • Sue

      Our school is now mandated to use every extra minute for our staff meetings to make “Time Collaboration” (extended school day) work for the rest of the year. The state may or may not accept our proposal, and we will look back on all those after school hours where we could have actually done some planning with longing and regret.

      • Castles Burning

        Sue, I am not exactly sure what you mean. Might you clarify further? You are in a Bridgeport school with an extended day and . . .? Do I even have this part correct?

  • Castles Burning

    I am so delighted with the voters of Bridgeport who ONCE AGAIN said NO to those who endorsed mayoral control of the BOE and those currently in control. This is another fine moment in Bridgeport’s history of saying NO to the educational reform that has been forced upon it by the state.

    Jonathan, I appreciate your analysis: “In many respects the primary was really a referendum on the education reform efforts of Governor Malloy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas.” The message was clear that independent thinking candidates were wanted, not “yes-men.”

    And, indeed, it was a “logical step” following the lawsuit brought and won by Judge Lopez and her co-defendant that deemed Paul Vallas not certified to be superintendent. We continue to see the culmination of years of hard work by so many–and inspired leadership by quite a few–that made yesterday’s victory possible and that should lead to the denial of the appeal that Paul Vallas is certified as a superintendent under Connecticut law.

  • Castles Burning

    Today’s Connecticut Post provides commentary on the recent elections in Bridgeport:

    It would be hard to view this as anything other than a rebuke to the city’s ongoing education reforms. The endorsed candidates had each pledged support for Vallas and the changes he has wrought, and the challengers all spoke against his work. The challengers won, and it wasn’t close. District leadership will have to respond to that message.

    Most promising, even given the low turnout, is the appearance in the past year or two of a viable opposition. It took hold in the defeat of a charter revision plan last year that would have removed the public’s right to elect a school board, and the momentum continued Tuesday. Anyone who chalked up last year’s charter defeat to the simultaneous presidential election, which always attracts high turnout, must face the fact that a low-turnout election has now produced the same result.

    Opposition is healthy. Change is good. The city will be better because of it.


    More power to that viable opposition.

  • Jim Spellman

    The beginning of the end for Dannel, Stefan, etc. who have used the CT Public School Systems as a cash cow for the “in crowd”. The damage done will take years to correct.
    Jon Pelto, if there were a Profiles In Courage Award for CT Public Education it would have your name on it.
    Let Us All Continue The Fight,
    Jim Spellman

    • Castles Burning


  • Jeannie

    morale is low,, I agree with the narrowing of the curriculum and those ridiculous waste of money benchmark tests made by a company who does not have a clue about our children who are not computer savvy and who do better in the classroom than those tests show. It is so disheartening to see theses scores and know the children are smarter than that, and then it all gets blamed on the teacher. We have such a unique set of circumstances here in Bridgeport and they cannot be fixed by sending umpteen people ( some who have no experience whatsoever and who are there to tell us what and how to teach when they know nothing about what is truly going on). We have no paper and all of our printers have been dismantled. The worst case scenario is the lack of a working printer in the computer lab in the library where we used to be able to give computer projects and now the students can not print our their projects and stories, This is going backwards if you ask me. This is bringing us down. If we are to pass the benchmark tests we need to understand the type of questions and how they are asked so we can help the students understand how best to take the test,
    I have been around for a long time and nothing is working, People are barking up the wrong tree, We need more help with our disruptive students who stop the whole learning process to begin with,,, we need smaller classes not people in and out of our rooms giving us ridiculous advice. We feel so demeaned and put down and we are some of the hardest working teachers in the state. We have to be,