Bridgeport, Kenneth Moales, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Working Families Party Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee, Kenneth Moales Jr., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Working Families Party
As reported in today’s Connecticut Post article, “City school board tips away from Finch,” thanks to broad support from Bridgeport voters, Democrats and Working Family Party members opposed to Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, and the corporate education reforms being pushed by Governor Malloy and Mayor Finch have taken control of Bridgeport’s Board of Education.
The change will mean that Kenneth Moales, Jr., Finch’s controversial campaign treasurer, will be removed as chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and replaced by someone opposed to the Malloy/Finch/Vallas initiatives.
The Bridgeport Board of Education race has garnered national attention and is now seen as proof that parents, teachers and public school advocates can use elections to beat back the corporate education reform industry.
The Malloy/Finch/Vallas defeat reiterates questions about what role Governor Malloy and the Democratic State Central Committee played in the Bridgeport election process.
According to reports filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Connecticut State Central Committee spent just under $63,000 between July 1, 2013 and October 17, 2013.
Of the money spent to support candidates, more than 95% of the State Party’s money went to fund the pro-Finch/Pro-Vallas Democratic slate that lost to the Democratic challenge slate in the September 10th Democratic Primary.
In addition to providing the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee with $20,000 to pay for canvassers the day before the Democratic Primary, the State Party paid for the three direct mail pieces that were sent out in support of the pro-Finch endorsed slate.
Due to what appear to be campaign finance violations, the amount spent on the endorsed slate might be even high.
But despite that massive financial support from the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee, the endorsed slate lost by a significant margin and the Democratic challenges have gone on to win control of the Board of Education with the help of the Working Families Party candidates.
Neither Governor Malloy nor Democratic State Chairman Nancy DiNardo has explained why they diverted tens of thousands of dollars in state party funds to support the Finch candidates in the Bridgeport Democratic Primary.
It is also not clear whether the Democratic State Central Committee even authorized the unprecedented expenditure.
One clue about the politics behind the decision to spend money to beat fellow Democrats instead of using those funds to campaign against Republicans may be the fact that of the funds raised by the Democratic State Central Committee, a large sub-group of contributions came from wealthy charter school advocates.
The Democratic State Central Committee report shows contributions totally $20,000 from Jonathan Sackler and his wife. Sackler is on the Board of Directors of Achievement First, Inc. ConnCAN, 50 CAN and has been a major donor to other corporate education reform endeavors including a $50,000 check to support Mayor Finch’s failed attempt to do away with a democratically elected board in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.
Achievement First, Inc, of course, is the large charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
The Democratic State Central Committee also received $8,000 from Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad whose foundation is one of the three largest corporate education reform funders in the country.
And Richard Ferguson, who serves as Chairman of Achievement First’s Elm City School, donated $2,000 to the Democratic State Central Committee.
As if the rift behind these political developments wasn’t obvious enough, while Governor Malloy celebrated with Toni Harp in New Haven last night, far from Bridgeport, the Connecticut Post reported that, “Conspicuously absent from the celebration at the Red Rooster Tuesday [where the challenge Democrats and Working Family Party celebrated] were Democratic Party leaders, including Finch. Via an emailed statement, he congratulated the victors.”
Bridgeport, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Working Families Party Bridgeport Board of Education, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Working Families Party
Huge victory for the students, parents, teachers and citizens of Bridgeport.
Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and Mayor Finch loses control of the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Kenneth Moales Jr. will lose his position as Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education
And Bridgeport’s Faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, will be packing up and shipping out.
Victory thanks to citizen uprising with the help of Bridgeport and Connecticut’s teachers, their union and the Working Families Party.
From the Connecticut Post:
BRIDGEPORT — The city Board of Education slipped out of the hands of Mayor Bill Finch and Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas on Tuesday despite the surprise win of a Republican school board candidate.
The majority of the nine-member school board tipped in favor of the Connecticut Working Families Party.
The winners include Democrats Howard Gardner, Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker, joined by incumbent Working Families member Sauda Baraka and Republican Joe Larcheveque.
Larcheveque won largely by the power of 593 votes he received at Black Rock school. Baker who was cross-endorsed by Democrats and the Working Families Party, was the top vote-getter by a long shot, with more than 5,200 votes, unofficially. Hennessey had an unofficial tally of 4,105 and Gardner 3,765. Larcheveque’s unofficial total was 1,751 votes; Baraka’s, 1,815.
The race pitted the Democratic party machine against the combined efforts of the Working Families Party, sympathetic Democrats and strong support from the city teacher’s union. To many, more was at stake than control of one the most troubled school districts in the state. Some had pegged it as the epicenter of a nationwide struggle over the control of public schools, a fight against efforts to cede control to corporate interest groups that seek to privatize educations.
Vallas was brought into the district in late 2011 after the local elected board was replaced by the state, a move later overturned by the state Supreme Court.
During the primary, the Democrats who won made it clear they are not fond of Vallas, and the Working Families Party has actively worked to remove him. In a statement issued early in the day Tuesday, Working Families Party Chair Lindsay Farrell made it clear replacing Vallas would be tops on their agenda.
Only the Republican candidates have stated outright they would join three incumbent Democrats on the board in supporting Vallas if he is deemed qualified by the state Supreme Court. The court is currently determining if the law was followed when Vallas, who has previously served as superintendent in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, received a waiver of a requirement that he hold an education administrator certificate to serve as superintendent in Connecticut.
You can read the latest at http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/City-school-board-tips-away-from-Finch-4958627.php or www.ctpost.com
Bridgeport, Paul Vallas, Yohuru Williams Bridgeport, Education Reform, Paul Vallas, Yohuru Williams
Yohuru Williams: The perils of top-down school reform
Dr. Yohuru Williams is chair and professor of history at Fairfield University. Follow him on Twitter @yohuruwilliams. This commentary piece was first published in the Connecticut Post on November 1, 2013
The latest debacle involving Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas is a not-so-subtle reminder of what is truly at stake in Bridgeport and around the nation with regard to so-called school reform — American democracy.
One of the primary criticisms of the Bush-Obama model of market-driven educational reform is the dictatorial style in which many of its so-called champions operate and the chilling effect this has had on local control of schools. In most cases, administrators like Vallas parachute into communities to which they have no real ties with an “I’ve got all the answers” approach that seeks to limit rather than encourage community participation. In the race to receive federal funds, the voice of “the people” is diminished as administrators pursue a scorched earth policy aimed not only at teacher unions but school boards and local PTAs.
There is no room for a diversity of voices in the corporate hierarchy. Many of the so-called reformers want to run schools like mini- corporations, with administrators beholden not to communities, but appointed boards of directors — a far cry from the days of the popularly elected school board. It is not only this model of corporate management but also its language that has seeped into the structure of public education. In Maryland, for instance, school superintendents are now called CEOs.
Disregarding the voluminous data in educational research that discounts the changes they seek to implement, they nevertheless assume more power in the dismantling of public education. When their haphazard model of action is exposed, as it was last week with the dismissal of Principal Byron Williams, of the newly formed military academy, less than three months into the job, the real dangers are revealed.
Responding to criticism over the dismissal of Williams, whom he praised just two months earlier as “outstanding,” Vallas highlighted the school’s poor performance, complaining that “discipline is weak,” and “instruction needs to be stronger.” But how exactly could he make such determinations in just nine weeks? Is this merely another example of the duck and cover language often employed to shield the rhetoric of top-down reform, where incompetence parades as progress and the staples of democracy, transparency, due process and democratic decision-making are the first casualties?
Although never enamored with the idea of a boot camp dressed up as “military academy” as the solution to Bridgeport’s problems, I nevertheless have to ask the question: What was the real reason for Williams’ dismissal? If we don’t have reasonable expectations for principals, how can we ever expect to have them for teachers or even students? We are not managing a McDonald’s or stocking the shelves at Walmart. Schools are not assembly lines.
Let’s be clear. The Common Core, a military academy, and a sprinter superintendent won’t fix Bridgeport’s public schools. I borrow the term “sprinter superintendent” from Stanford Professor Emeritus Larry Cuban. In an Aug. 4 blog post, he outlined the formula employed by “reformers” such as Vallas who swing into crisis cities with a cookie-cutter program for change. They scurry about in their haste to bolster student achievement, measured by test scores, while introducing changes that often leave stakeholders disappointed and their communities in shambles. Like Cervantes’ fictional hero Don Quixote — an appropriate analogy since their narratives are also the stuff of fiction — they charge at windmills, dragons of their own making, including teacher unions, underperforming district administrators and, in some cases, such as in Bridgeport, democratically elected school boards, all in the name of the fixing the “crisis” in American education.
They often seem more interested in how their actions play in the media, never missing the opportunity to lambaste teachers, parents and apparently even the persons they appoint. Their impatience with change is equally quixotic. Firing a principal after nine weeks is extreme even by corporate standards. Most companies offer three months’ probation.
The real issue in this case was Williams’s alleged failure to secure the proper certification to head the school, ironically the same issue that should have already assured Vallas’ ouster as superintendent. Unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, the rules operate on a sliding scale. Rule-breaking at the highest levels is celebrated as take-charge innovation rather than the worst kind of malfeasance — that which threatens the future of our children.
Vallas, like his colleagues in other states, has instituted faux community involvement through community conversations. In reality, these events have proved to be little more than public relations ploys, giving the specter of community engagement while blocking any meaningful dialogue. Mostly dominated by the superintendent with a brief and tightly regulated period for questions and answers, they mock real engagement.
The question for us all is: is this the model we want to present to young people of democracy in action? In communities already short on patience and long on frustration with the failure of the democratic process, it is not unreasonable to think of the chilling effect not only on the parents but the students, whose first glimpses of democracy in action have been skewed by market-driven educational reform.
Bridgeport, Democratic Party, Democratic State Central Committee, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas Bridgeport, Education Reform, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas
In a story entitled, Michelle Rhee revolution faces massive threat — and new accusations,” Salon Magazine’s Josh Eidelson wries, “In Bridgeport, a quiet bipartisan scheme to protect ed reformers’ favorite school chief is suspected by critics.”
The story paints a partial picture of what the Malloy, Finch, Pryor, Vallas cabal are doing to try and preserve Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts in Connecticut’s largest city.
“Education reform lightning rod Paul Vallas – who courted controversy helming school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago — isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But a school board election in Bridgeport, Conn. – the latest district to tap Vallas to oversee reforms — could effectively spell his fate. Tomorrow’s vote will offer the latest referendum on the bipartisan, billionaire-backed mainstream education reform movement, and on a multi-year effort by local Democrats – aided by the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Rhee — to defeat or disempower labor-backed dissenters.
“As I’ve gone around the country, I always point to Bridgeport as one of the signs that the people can beat the power,” former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and high-profile reform critic Diane Ravitch told activists on a conference call last month. Tuesday’s election is the latest round in a long-running war over ed reform, and who should shape it, in the largest city in one of the country’s most unequal states.
For the sake of shielding Vallas and his agenda, activists allege that the city’s Democratic machine has acted indifferent or even hostile to defeating Republicans tomorrow.
“What’s at stake is the future direction of Bridgeport schools,” said Connecticut Working Families Party executive director Lindsay Farrell, citing issues including testing and class size. “And I think, in a broader sense, the direction of public education in this country.”
As I’ve reported, Bridgeport’s school board became a battleground in 2009, when two of its Republican members were ousted in an election by candidates from the labor-backed Working Families Party. While Bridgeport is overwhelmingly Democratic, by law no more than two-thirds of its nine school board seats can be held by the same party. While the board’s Democrats and Republicans had often seen eye to eye on education, the WFP didn’t. “They were very effective at questioning the status quo,” Bridgeport Education Association vice president Rob Traber told Salon last year, and when Mayor Bill Finch’s superintendent pushed unpopular cuts in 2011, the Democratic machine and its business allies got “afraid that they might lose control of the board.”
You can read the full story at: http://www.salon.com/2013/11/04/how_bipartisan_antics_could_save_the_next_michelle_rhee_from_humiliation/.
And Salon doesn’t even deal with the campaign finance issues highlighted in the recent Wait, What? articles such as this one: Did you make a contribution to the Democratic State Central Committee?
Bridgeport, Paul Vallas
Even now, at a time when government and elected officials seem more distant than ever before, the voters of Bridgeport are proving that the power of democracy should never be underestimated.
Bridgeport’s voters overwhelming defeated Mayor Bill Finch’s proposal to do away with a democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.
And just this past September, Bridgeport voters stunned the Democratic Party endorsed slate and instead turned to a team of pro-public education advocates who were willing to stand up and fight the corporate education reforms being pushed by Governor Malloy, Mayor Finch and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas.
The establishment may have the money, but they have lost the moral authority to lead.
The voters of Bridgeport will have their say tomorrow, but here are two commentary pieces sent to Wait, What? that explain why Bridgeport is on the verge of electing new leadership and sending Paul Vallas packing.
A letter from former Bridgeport Board of Education member Max Medina:
Sauda Baraka Deserves To Be Re-Elected To Bridgeport’s Board of Education
Sauda Baraka is one of the several candidates we have to choose from on Tuesday, November 5th in the Bridgeport Board of Education election. Sauda has earned our support and deserves to be re-elected. I served with Sauda on the Bridgeport Board of Education and saw how she came to meetings prepared to debate and attack the challenges and issues we faced, how she spent many hours not only reviewing what was provided to all of us by the administration but also doing independent research into the best educational practices elsewhere and how effective she was in making real connections with the members of our community who would be immediately affected by what happened in our schools. In fact, Sauda was serving our children long before joining the Board; she was an important member of a parents’ group which led the effort to renovate Kennedy Stadium, a project no one was talking about before they began their advocacy.
Sauda and I often disagreed with each other when we served together; in fact, every time I was nominated to be the Board’s president Sauda opposed me! None of that affected our working relationship. We put the interests of the children first. The recent reports of “obstructionism” are off-base when it comes to Sauda; my personal experience is that Sauda gives everyone the same respect she receives from them.
With her intelligence, tenacity and commitment, Sauda Baraka deserves our votes.
Maximino Medina, Jr. (Bridgeport Board of Education Member, 1993-2009)
The second, a powerful call to action, from Craig Kelly, former President of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP
Shame on the Administration for politicizing the issue of the suspension of a school principal following an evidentiary hearing on the merits!
Shame on those elitist politicians who are using these hearings, and the outcome, for political gain!
Any politician who is so out-of-touch with the realities of Bridgeport’s school district is not fit to serve on the Board of Education and should apologize for their outrageous attacks.
There is a serious and growing problem within the Bridgeport public school system.
Since Mr. Vallas took over as superintendent in January, 2011, a large number of educators and administrators who are of-color have been demoted or dismissed.
The list includes the following highly qualified individuals:
- Denise Clemmons- Assistant Superintendent of High Schools – Terminated
- Cynthia Fernandez- Director of Teaching & Learning – Demoted
- Dr. Aresta Johnson- Central High School Principal – Demoted
- Alejandro Ortiz – Bassick High School Principal – Demoted
- Dr. Ricardo Rosa – Director of Math – Demoted
- Gladys Jones Walker – Principal Bryant School – Demoted
- Joyce Turner- Principal Dunbar School – Demoted
- Dr. Byron Williams- Principal Military Academy – Terminated& Rehired
- Carmen Perez Dickson- Tisdale School Principal – Suspended and Recommended for Termination
This is absolutely unacceptable and the administration needs to address it immediately. It is profoundly wrong whenever discrimination of this nature is employed, but even further troubling because the makeup of Bridgeport’s student body is predominantly of color.
The leadership of our schools should reflect that reality. Instead this administration has sent a negative message to the students and the community about the qualifications and leadership abilities of their educators.
This community owes a debt of gratitude to Board member Sauda E. Baraka for the courage to call out this type of invidious discrimination and ensure that fairness and equality are the standards used by decision makers.
In the most recent chapter of this trend, Superintendent Vallas and members of his administration have made inappropriate remarks about the punishment delivered to Principal Carmen Perez Dickson. On Wednesday the Board of Education voted to suspend Ms. Perez-Dickson for misconduct in the schools.
As in any hearing before a Board, Commission or a Court, a decision is made by fact finders after a full review of the evidence has been completed. In this case, the Board reviewed the evidence and the testimony of all of the witnesses. It is the function of the fact-finders to evaluate their credibility; after all, it is their responsibility to find the Truth.
After hearing the testimony of former Director of School Security, James Nealy, as well as reviewing the video introduced into evidence as substantiation of the incident in question, the Board found that the chain of custody of the tape was questionable and therefore raised a question about the legitimacy of the tape. The Board also considered the fact that the Department of Children and Families investigated the complaint but did not make a finding of abuse. Furthermore, the lack of consistency in the testimony of the main witnesses of the school administration was also considered by the Board.
“I didn’t see anything egregious, just a principal trying to do her job,” said Nealy. “It was a principal escorting a student from one location to another. That was about it.”(CT Post, 9/4/13)
The Board did not exonerate Carmen Perez-Dickson. However, based upon the evidence presented, it believed that a 35-year career was entitled to some consideration and some respect. Notwithstanding those considerations, Ms. Dickson’s punishment was quite severe; six months suspension without pay, sensitivity training and conflict resolution training, individual mentoring and supervision, removal from the school where she serves, as well as a prohibition against serving as a principal for a full year.
It is also relevant that she has been a target of the Vallas administration since she won a million-dollar lawsuit against the Bridgeport Board of Education for discrimination. The fact that three Finch loyalists on the Board of Education, Thomas Mulligan, Leticia Colon and Hernan Illingsworth believed that the Death Penalty was appropriate does not render the even-handed and fair disposition handed down by the majority of the Board unreasonable or subject to attack. Nor does it justify the petulant Ad Homonym attack on the Board majority by Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas. Perhaps someday, Mr. Vallas will realize the he works for the Board and the taxpayers and not the other way around.
This latest revelation can also be seen as a manifestation of a more disturbing issue:
This cannot be tolerated in the City of Bridgeport!
Craig Kelly, former President of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP
Bridgeport, Democratic Party, Democratic State Central Committee, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Kenneth Moales, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nancy DiNardo, Paul Vallas Bridgeport, Gubernatorial Election 2014, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nancy DiNardo
A few days ago, Democratic Party activists received an email from Governor Malloy asking them to help with this year’s local election by donating to the Democratic State Central Committee.
In his email, Malloy wrote;
“We only have four days left until the polls open. On Tuesday, Connecticut voters will choose local leaders who will make important decisions about their towns and cities. These decisions will affect budgets, first responders, emergency services and schools.
By making a minimum $5 contribution right now, you allow the Party to help campaigns organize more efficiently, use campaign tools more strategically and contact even more voters between now and Election Day.”
Regards, Dan Malloy
But what Malloy didn’t say in his email is far more interesting than what he did say.
On September 9, 2013, the day before this year’s local Democratic Party primary, the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee siphoned off $20,000 from its state account and gave it to Mayor Finch and the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee to help them fund their endorsed slate of candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education, candidates loyal to Mayor Bill Finch, Board of Education Chairman Kenneth Moales Jr. and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas.
The endorsed slate, which ran on a platform of support for the corporate education reform industry, went down to a stunning defeat against a challenge slate made up of local Democrats who support local teachers, local schools and local public education. The challenge state won, in no small part, because they opposed Governor Malloy, Mayor Finch and Paul Vallas’ education reform initiatives.
As local Democratic town committees across Connecticut know, pumping $20,000 of in Democratic State Central funds to prop up a locally endorsed slate is unprecedented.
For decades the tradition has been to leave local Democratic primary battles to the people in the local community.
But Malloy’s commitment to anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public schools shows no bounds.
And by waiting until the day before the primary, Governor Dan Malloy, Democratic State Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and the Democratic State Central Committee could be sure that the media and voters didn’t know that the Democratic State Party was underwriting the pro-Vallas slate until after Primary Day. (State law requires that campaign finance reports be submitted seven days prior to the primary and then in October).
But now that the post primary State Elections Reports have been filed, the news is even more incredible.
In addition to giving Bridgeport’s endorsed slate $20,000, Malloy, DiNardo and the Democratic State Central Committee picked up the cost for all three local mailings for the Bridgeport endorsed slate.
Democratic State Central paid an out-of-state direct mail company of $9,471.44 on August 26, 2013, $3,911.21 on August 29, 2013 and $4,735.72 on September 10, 2013.
This means that in addition to the $20,000 donation to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee, Democratic donors from around Connecticut paid an additional $18,118.72 to support Bridgeport’s losing pro-corporate education reform slate.
And the amount spent to support Finch’s losing slate may be even higher since the State Party’s expenditures are listed as being for printing and don’t reveal if the Democratic State Central Committee also paid for the postage for these mailings.
Adding to the controversy is the fact that during the same time period, Democratic State Central Committee paid Governor Malloy’s chief advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso, a total of $13,500. None of those funds were allocated to the Bridgeport campaign, which seems odd considering how active Occhiogrosso has been in the corporate education reform effort in Connecticut.
Since January of this year, Occhiogrosso’s company has billed A Better Connecticut, the leading charter school advocacy group, over $2.3 million for television ads, polling and strategy to support Malloy’s education reforms.
Oddly, the latest Democratic State Central Committee report also fails to show any expenditures for polling and opposition research in Bridgeport even though it is widely known that a poll was done by the pro-Finch operation and an opposition research firm out of Oregon was hired to do background checks on the individual members of the challenge slate and their supporters.
With no expenditures listed for public opinion polling, opposition research or Occhiogrosso’s firm, the Bridgeport and Democratic State Central Committee campaign finance reports reiterate the likelihood that Finch, Malloy and the Democratic State Central Committee violated Connecticut’s campaign finance laws.
Considering the historic role of the Democratic State Central Committee, the Bridgeport situation seems like an utter fiasco.
At least $40,000, and perhaps much more, was diverted away from helping Democrats beat Republicans and instead it was used to silence the opponents of Malloy’s education reform strategies.
Did the Democratic State Central Committee approve these massive expenditures?
Were Democratic Town Chairs told that they were raising money that would be spent in a Bridgeport Primary and not to beat Republicans?
What about the many donors to the Democratic State Central Committee’s annual Jefferson, Jackson Bailey dinner. Where they told their contributions were going to be used to fight Democrats and not Republicans?
And why is Governor Malloy misleading Democratic donors now by claiming that their contributions will go toward one thing when he knows that money is being spent for something else?
Finally, Malloy’s email contains one other extraordinarily interesting tidbit.
The small print of the email reads; “Your contribution will be used in connection with federal elections and is subject to the limitations and prohibitions of the Federal Election Campaign Act. Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contribution exceed $200 in a calendar year.”
In fact, in recent months Malloy has been raising money into the Party’s Federal Account. While Malloy can use those funds in a gubernatorial campaign year they cannot legally be used in local elections.
So while Malloy’s email says give $5 to help local races, it also reveals that the money may be shifted to the Democratic State Central Committee’s federal account where it can be used next year, when there are federal races, but not this year.
The questions about Malloy’s fundraising practices are growing exponentially.
Bridgeport, Carmen Lopez, Mayor Bill Finch, Raising Hale Bridgeport, Carmen Lopez, Ethics, Mayor Bill Finch
Raising Hale is a media project of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.
Although Wait, What? and Raising Hale are miles apart on some philosophical issues, Raising Hale’s dedication to “uncovering government waste, fraud, and abuse in Connecticut” is impressive.
Fellow investigative journalist and blogger, Zachary Janowski, is doing an amazing job shinning the light of truth into some of the dark spaces of Connecticut’s government and political environment.
In a recent post, Janowski wrote about the billboard that the Webster Bank Arena donated to Mayor Bill Finch so that he could build his twitter following.
It is a particularly revealing issue considering the controversy that surrounded the approval process for the billboard only a year ago.
In November 2012, the Connecticut Post wrote;
The Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission gave the go-ahead for the city and Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment LLC to seek a special permit to build the V-shaped billboard that would be visible to traffic on Interstate 95. The changes, which apply only to the arena area, would increase the height of the proposed sign to “no greater than 60 feet above I-95,” and allow a total of 8,500 square feet of signage on the arena, the baseball stadium and the adjacent parking garage.
Nevertheless, the public hearing portion of the meeting became somewhat raucous, pitting opponents who accused Mayor Bill Finch of exerting control over the commission against businesspeople and arena representatives who claimed the changes would lure people and money to Bridgeport.
Paul Timpanelli, who heads the Greater Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said the changes allowing an electronic two-sided billboard would enhance the city’s image and attract people to “come to the city, spend time here and invest here.”
But Carmen Lopez, a retired Superior Court judge, accused Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment of attempting to buy the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval, noting that the organization was among several business that donated thousands of dollars to a PAC supporting the mayor’s efforts to change the city charter.
The charter proposal, which was defeated on Election Day, would have allowed Bridgeport’s mayor, rather than voters, to select Board of Education members.
“This change in site regulation and the site plan to follow do not pass the all-important smell test,” Lopez said of the billboard permit. “The people voted no to mayoral control of the Board of Education on Election Day. Tonight you can say no to mayoral control of zoning.”
John Kennelly, a lawyer representing Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which has its own electronic billboards near the arena’s proposed billboard, also opposed the word changes because he said it represented “spot zoning” and the proposed electronic billboard was never put out to bid.
Now a year later, Raising Hale’s Janowski’s reports,
“Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is looking for followers on Twitter and he is using billboard space donated to the city to recruit them.
The billboard, visible from I-95, promotes Finch’s account, @MayorBillFinch.
‘The billboard space is provided to the city as free advertising space by Webster Bank Arena,’ said Elaine Ficarra, spokeswoman for Finch.
‘The Twitter followers would remain property of the City’ after Finch leaves office, she said.”
You can read the CT Post story at: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Way-paved-for-Webster-Bank-Arena-s-I-95-sign-4051796.php
And the Raising Hale story at: http://www.raisinghale.com/2013/10/29/donated-billboard-bridgeport-mayor-twitter
Bridgeport, Paul Vallas Bridgeport, Paul Vallas
“He’s gone and he’s not coming back,” Vallas told a room full of 70 angry parents and students Wednesday on the second floor of the Fairchild Wheeler magnet school campus. Connecticut Post 10/23/13
Now from the Connecticut Post: Bridgeport Military Academy has their commander back
BRIDGEPORT – City school officials confirmed late Wednesday that Byron Williams, commander of the Bridgeport Military Academy was back at the new school on Wednesday.
Williams was let go by Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas last week but the outcry from parents and students at the school was such that the school board directed the superintendent to work something out.
Although certified as a school administrator elsewhere, Williams has yet to receive reciprocity in Connecticut. As such, with his return he is working alongside a retired school principal, Manual Rocha, until the paperwork is straightened out.
Williams is also getting a host of support from central office — to help him with scheduling, community partnerships, etc. — that apparently was not in place before.
The new school opened this fall to 150 freshman and is housed temporarily in the Fairchild Wheeler Science complex while its permanent space in the district swing space school is occupied by Roosevelt School. The temporary accommodations apparently has led to some of the friction. Academy students have been without lockers and were told they couldn’t wear the $110 boots they were told to purchase as part of their uniforms because they scuffed the floor of the brand new facility. As of today, the students have lockers and can wear their boots.
The Bridgeport Board of Education needs to realize that the “Vallas Era” is over and it is time to recruit a new superintendent of schools.
Bridgeport, Paul Vallas Bridgeport, Paul Vallas
When facing the Connecticut superior court judge who eventually concluded that he lacked the credentials to serve as a superintendent of schools in Connecticut, Paul Vallas spent his time on the stand tooting his own horn and bragging about all the great things he was doing for the children of Bridgeport.
Some were programs that were already in the works long before Vallas landed in Bridgeport. Others were programs he had foisted upon the children, parents and teachers of Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
As the judge concluded in her broader ruling in the case of Lopez v. Vallas, much of his arrogant, self-aggrandizing testimony was simply not believable.
One “accomplishment” that Vallas repeatedly pointed out was what he promised to be a nationally renowned Bridgeport Military Academy (BMA).
However, eight weeks into the school year, students and parents are learning that Vallas’ commitment to the Bridgeport Military Academy was all words and no action.
But rather than simply watch the total collapse of the program, a group of the Bridgeport Military Academy’s parents are fighting back against Vallas and his incompetent inner-circle of administrators.
Tonight these parents are going to attend the Bridgeport Board of Education meeting and their stories will shine the light of truth on Vallas’ complete failure to lead Bridgeport’s schools anywhere but off the tracks and into the ditch.
According to those directly involved in the Bridgeport Military Academy, Paul Vallas has completely failed to provide the support and resources for the new Military Academy.
The failure begins with Vallas’ decision to open the Bridgeport Military Academy before finding it a home. Instead of ensuring that the Academy was given the space it needed, Vallas put the new school into “excess space” at the Fairchild Wheeler Magnet School.
But the list of issues Paul Vallas and his administrators have mishandled only begins with the school’s location.
A prime example relates to the school uniforms that were required for all students.
Parents were ordered to buy a mandatory wardrobe including expensive military boots. But recently, Assistant Superintendent of High Schools John Curtis issued a new directive that military boots cannot be used because they were making scuff marks on the floors at Fairchild Wheeler.
Even more incredible, math classes are only being held when space is available and despite spending ten million dollars for new textbooks, Vallas has failed to provide any books for the Academy’s mandatory Spanish classes.
In an ironic reminder of what failure means, although military drill training was promised as part of the required curriculum, no drill training is taking place because Fairchild Wheeler administrators say the noise was a disturbance.
And to make matters worse, Vallas never hired a drill Sergeant for the Bridgeport Military Academy.
Meanwhile, rather than take responsibility for the problems, parents are reporting that Vallas is attempting to shift blame onto the program’s director, Dr. Williams, who he fired last week.
More about how the parents of the Bridgeport Military Academy are standing up to Paul Vallas after tonight’s Board of Education meeting.
Meanwhile, you can read more about the Bridgeport Military Academy here: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/A-new-principal-for-a-new-school-4519518.php and here http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Boot-camp-kicks-off-new-school-year-4754642.php and here http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Parents-students-mad-about-firing-4921399.php
Bridgeport, Carmen Lopez, Kenneth Moales, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor Bridgeport, Carmen Lopez, Kenneth Moales Jr., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Stefan Pryor
As Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch undoubtedly likes to remind Governor Malloy, without Bridgeport, Malloy would have lost the 2010 gubernatorial election.
Since then, Finch and Malloy have taken a beating in Bridgeport.
- Malloy and Finch conspired to have the state of Connecticut take over the Bridgeport schools. The move was deemed illegal by the Connecticut Supreme Court and the Malloy administration was forced to return the Bridgeport School system to local control.
- Mayor Finch’s attempt to pass a change to Bridgeport’s Charter to eliminate a democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by him was soundly defeated.
- Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Mayor Finch brought in Paul Vallas to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools but their attempt to keep him in the post was deemed illegal and a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled that Vallas doesn’t have the qualifications or credential necessary to serve as a superintendent of schools in Connecticut. Vallas is only holding on to the job due to the fact that Finch, Malloy and Pryor (using Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayer funds) are keeping Vallas in Bridgeport hoping that the Connecticut Supreme Court will overrule the Connecticut Superior Court judge’s ruling.
- And in September, a slate of Democratic challenges opposed to the Malloy, Pryor and Finch education reforms crushed the slate endorsed by Finch and funded by the Bridgeport and Connecticut Democratic Committees.
So with Election Day coming up, Carmen Lopez, the former superior court judge who helped to orchestrate the successful law suit on the control of Bridgeport’s schools and brought the law suit the led to the ruling that Vallas doesn’t have the credentials to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent asks, recently wrote a commentary piece asking, “What will the Election Day ballot of Mayor Bill Finch look like?”
And then Carmen Lopez goes on to lay out the following:
Along with many others, I have been pondering that question ever since the Sept. 10, 2013, Democratic primary, when the Democrats of Bridgeport, emphatically and unmistakably, repudiated the Finch machine and what it has come to represent.
Challengers, including three candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education, were victorious across the board. As a result, some have begun to celebrate. While I, too, rejoiced in the victory of the Board of Education challengers, I feel compelled to sound a note of caution. To those who would celebrate before the votes are counted on Nov. 5, I would advise “not so fast!”
The first act of the newly elected BOE will be to elect the chair. Assuming that the three endorsed Democrats are successful, they will join John Bagley, who was elected in the 2012 special election on the Working Families Party line, and three hold-over Finch loyalists, on the new BOE. One additional vote will be needed in order to ensure a BOE chair who will ask questions, demand answers and will not rubber-stamp everything Finch, Superintendent Paul Vallas and City Attorney Mark Anastasi put in front of it.
Finch, Chief of Staff Adam Wood, City Bond Counsel John Stafstrom and BOE Chairman Kenneth Moales will do everything in their power to make sure that this does not happen.
After all, they all have a lot to lose.
Don’t think for a moment that the Finch machine has despaired. Rest assured that Finch, Wood, Stafstrom, Moales and their machine loyalists still have a card to play — an ace up their collective sleeves, in the form of their wholly owned and predictably compliant Republican subsidiary.
They will all, quietly of course, mark their Election Day ballots for the Republican candidates for the Board of Education. Republican success represents the Finch machine’s only chance to salvage control of the Bridgeport BOE. Without Republican help, they will be unable to retain Finch’s hand-picked chairman, the walking conflict of interest Kenneth Moales.
For those of you who question this analysis, and are scratching your heads, I will review some recent Bridgeport political history. As George Santayana famously said, “Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
If you think my prediction is too Machiavellian, I would ask you to objectively examine the most recent history of the Republican Party here in Bridgeport. That examination reveals that Republicans holding public office have been reliable, loyal and dependable allies of the Finch machine.
In July 2011, the only Republican member of the Bridgeport Board of Education voted in favor of the illegal takeover, a takeover conspired by Finch, the governor’s office and wealthy down-county hedge-fund moguls. Although a party in the litigation that went to the Supreme Court, the local Republican Party never filed any papers in support of the challenge mounted to the illegal takeover.
After the court decision, when Finch and his attorney were attempting to delay the return of the lawfully elected board, their star witness in court was the Republican registrar of voters. The same GOP board member who voted in favor of the BOE takeover helped recruit Thomas Mulligan to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education, thus guaranteeing a reliable machine vote.
On the Civil Service Commission and Bridgeport’s land-use bodies, when the machine needs a key vote, the Republicans are always there to deliver.
Every Republican member of the Bridgeport Charter Revision Commission voted to disenfranchise Bridgeport voters, and marched in lock-step with Finch’s directive.
The Bridgeport Republicans may claim to be different at election time, but a look at their performance in office reveals total loyalty to Finch and his machine, and belies any claim of independence. Let’s not forget that in 2009, this Republican Party nominated Nate Snow for the Board of Education, the same Nate Snow who was a key conspirator in the illegal takeover attempt.
The truth is that unless the two candidates who appear only on the Working Families line, Sauda Baraka and Eric Stewart-Alicea are elected to the school board, history will repeat itself.
A reading of the tea leaves, informed by a reading of recent history, convinces me that the first vote cast by newly elected Republican members of the Board of Education will be to re-elect Moales, Finch’s campaign treasurer as the board chair. This will happen courtesy of the Bridgeport Republican Party, and will no doubt be justified as an exercise in civility and bipartisanship.
The chairmanship is key. The chair sets the agenda and runs the meetings. Finch knows that if you can control the chair, you can control the board.
The slogan for this ongoing whisper campaign might well be “Save Finch, Save Moales, Vote Republican for Board of Education.”
If this underground effort succeeds, then history in this one-party city will continue to repeat itself.
You can find Judge Carmen Lopez’s commentary piece letter to the editor at: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Predicting-the-mayor-s-Election-Day-ballot-4920372.php