Bridgeport’s Former “Deputy Mayor” Josh Thompson running for Mayor of New York City

Although it is undoubtedly purely coincidental, with fans eagerly awaiting the much anticipated release this Friday of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” along comes the news that Joshua Thompson, former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide, who claimed on his on-line biography that he was actually Bridgeport’s “Deputy Mayor,” is now focusing his attention on defeating New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

No, Josh Thompson isn’t working for one of the potential candidates who are considering challenging de Blasio in the November 2017 election.  Mayor Bill Finch’s former aide is running to BECOME New York’s next mayor.

Josh Thompson’s time as a member of Bill Finch’s Brain Trust highlight the recent challenges that have been dragging down Connecticut’s charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies who continue to undermine public education in Connecticut.

As some readers may remember, in March 2013, Wait, What? reported that Joshua Thompson was garnering media attention when he updated his on-line biography to read:

Joshua Thompson is the Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT. Prior to this position, he was the Program Analyst and Projects Manager for the Deputy Mayor for Education in the Executive Office of the Mayor in Washington, DC.

In this capacity, he served in a direct oversight role in the District’s schools, working in partnership with charter schools, as well as the federal government on policies such as Race to the Top and other major initiatives that impact the District at large.

But, of course, few of the claims made by the 20-something political operative were true.

At the time Josh Thompson was hired in August 2012 to join Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s staff, the Connecticut Post wrote that the newcomer would be working as Finch’s education aide.  The paper explained,

“Joshua Thompson will develop and carry out public education policy and shape new initiatives. He will earn $102,000 as an at-will employee of the mayor. Funds for the salary were approved by the City Council and come from a dedicated line in the budget, said Adam Wood, Finch’s chief of staff.”

However, neither Mayor Finch nor his Chief of Staff, Adam Wood, bothered to explain to the City Council that the “dedicated line” they were referring to was actually the City’s education budget and their tactic meant money intended for educating Bridgeport’s children would, instead, be used to expand Finch’s political operation.

While Thompson’s official position remained that of a deputy chief administrative officer, the Finch Administration started referring to Thompson as the Mayor’s “Director for Education and Youth.”

Initially, Director of Education and Youth is how Thompson referred to himself on his LinkedIn social networking account, although he bulked up his title a bit more on his  twitter account, calling himself, “Director of Education in Bridgeport, CT.”

But Thompson’s amazing, meteoric, self-promotion was most evident when it came to his biography on The Council of Urban Professionals’ website.  The CUP is a New York City based entity that claims to be, “an energetic 21st century leadership development organization that molds diverse business and civic leaders, and empowers them to exert influence, achieve their individual goals and create collective impact through a range of programs and initiative.”

After Thompson was done doctoring his biography on the site it read;

“Director of Education and Youth Policy and the Deputy Mayor for Education for the city of Bridgeport, CT.”

Of course, the claim was more than a little far-fetched considering Bridgeport City Charter doesn’t even allow the use of the title, Deputy Mayor.  After Thompson’s enhanced biography was published on Wait, What? he modified it to remove his status as the Park City’s self-appointed Deputy Mayor.

Meanwhile, back in Bridgeport, Thompson’s first task was to help pass Mayor Finch’s plan to do away with the city’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.  The Mayor’s charter referendum initiative went down in a stunning defeat.

Undaunted by the will of the people, Finch then had Thompson take on the role of bullying the Bridgeport Board of Education into extending the contract of education reformer extraordinaire, Paul Vallas, who had arrived in Bridgeport after successfully undermining and the public school systems in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

Thompson’s role as Finch’s education reform enforcer was covered in a number of Wait, What? blog posts, including, Bridgeport: Finch puts Deputy Mayor Thompson in attack mode to protect Paul Vallas…Mayor Finch and Bridgeport City Council move to cut education funding? And  last but not least, in Finch/Vallas land…

Leading the Custer-like effort to defend Vallas, Thompson issued a threatening statement to the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education that appeared in the Only in Bridgeport” blog.  Thompson opined;

“I want to make something 100-percent clear…I am very concerned that we have elected board members whose values are tied to that of the Working Families Party…. With Superintendent Vallas’ evaluation coming up this Monday, it is clear that anyone who is part of the Working Families Party did not objectively evaluate the Superintendent’s performance…”

Finch also gave Thompson the task of helping make sure that only pro-charter school Finch loyalists were elected to the Bridgeport school board, an effort that also ended in failure.

Failure was also the outcome of Finch’s re-election plans, when the incumbent mayor was defeated in November 2015 by former Bridgeport mayor, Joe Ganim, who had returned to Bridgeport after serving seven years in federal prison for corruption.

But by then, Thompson’s dreams of glory had taken him back down the road to New York City.

As Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll noted (purportedly while on drugs);

alice quote

As for his time in Bridgeport, Thompson explains on his new campaign website;

In 2012, as I was finishing up in DC, I received a call that Bridgeport’s education system was in crisis and drove straight there. When I arrived in Bridgeport, there was a $13 million education budget deficit, a dropout rate of nearly 50%, and textbooks that still said George H. W. Bush was president. During my tenure, we eliminated the deficit without letting go of a single teacher or closing a single school. In fact, we opened 9 schools, some of which are now among the highest performing schools in Connecticut. Instead of outdated textbooks, every high school student in Bridgeport now has a tablet….

As an aside, the tablet statement isn’t true and the $10 million no-bid contract to purchase new textbooks not only ended up with “new” books that are not Common Core complaint but the outrageous and lucrative payment schedule ended up diverting scarce dollars from critically needed instructional costs for years after Vallas and Thompson left town.

But none of the uncomfortable details matter to Connecticut’s charter school industry and those associated with the anti-teacher, anti-public school education reform agenda.

Annoyed with New York Mayor de Blasio, the moneyed interests associated with Connecticut’s charter schools are stepping up to help their guy “challenge” New York’s Mayor..

According to Thompson’s first campaign finance report, Bridgeport’s former “Deputy Mayor” raised a total of about $15,000 during his first reporting period.

Thompson’s largest donor, of course, is none-other-than Jonathan Sackler, the multi-millionaire pharmaceutical executive who was also Governor Dannel Malloy’s largest campaign contributor.

Thompson’s other donors include;

Jennifer Alexander (CEO, ConnCAN)

Andrew Boas (Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors)

Adam Goldfarb (Former Chief of Staff to Former CT Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor)

Jeremiah Grace (Director of the NY based charter school front called Families for Excellent Schools)

Alex Johnson (Former CEO, ConnCAN)

Megan Lowney (Co-founder of the charter school advocacy group Excel Bridgeport)

Adam Wood (Former Chief of Staff to Former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch)

And others who names appear regularly here at Wait, What?

It just goes to show you…. Although what exactly is goes to show is a bit of mystery.

CT Teacher Unions – Please stand up for CT Parents and their right to opt out

On behalf of parents, students and teachers across Connecticut, we are publicly asking the Connecticut Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter and local teacher union chapters to end their silence and take immediate steps to speak out and support the growing effort by Connecticut parents to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test.

While the leadership of the Connecticut teachers unions have said they want to phase out the destructive Common Core SBAC testing, they have failed, to date, to join their colleagues in other states and at the national level in speaking out, passing resolutions and engaging in political action on behalf of parents and their fundamental, inalienable and constitutionally protected right to opt their children out of Connecticut’s Common Core testing scheme.

In New York State, NYSUT – a federation of more than 1,200 local unions representing more than 600,000 members – a union that is affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) has become a leading example of the critically important role that teachers and their unions can play in supporting parents, students and public education.

NYSUT and dozens and dozens of local teacher unions across New York are taking strong, principled action in opposition to the Common Core testing program and the right of parents to refuse to have their children bullied, abused, tormented or labeled by the disastrous Common Core tests.

NYSUT writes;

“Parents and teachers share deep concerns about over-testing resulting from the state’s botched implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). Concerns include: stress on students, appropriateness of tests, erosion of learning time and lack of state transparency on test content.

Parents who decide it is not in their children’s best interests to take these assessments are part of an “Opt-Out” movement that is growing nationally and in New York state.

NYSUT fully supports parents’ right to choose what is best for their children – including NYSUT members who decide as parents to opt their child out of state tests.

In addition, NYSUT encourages members to exercise their rights as professionals to speak out against the harmful effects of high-stakes tests – and will vigorously defend members if a district brings disciplinary charges in that event.”

Not only is the New York Teachers’ union speaking out, but they are putting their words into action.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on April 10, 2015, NYSUT is calling on its members to remind them that students can opt out of the Common Core tests.  The Wall Street Journal explains,

“In an aggressive move against testing, the New York State United Teachers union started robocalling members Thursday with a reminder they can have their children refuse next week’s state exams.

“This is insanity,” says the robocall’s recording of union President Karen Magee. “

The massive common core testing, a program designed to fail the vast majority of students is absolutely the definition of insanity and NYSUT’s President Karen Magee is absolutely right when she urges parents to consider opting their children out of these Common Core tests.

American Federation of Teachers National President, Randi Weingarten, has done the same.

And National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia has written,

“Parents don’t want their children to be treated with a one-size-fits-all education approach. And educators know that students are more than a test score, so let educators teach and put an end the toxic practice of punishing students, schools and educators based on test results.”

In Connecticut the Common Core SBAC test is designed (rigged) to label more than 60 percent of all public school students as failures and the way the test is scored will mean the failure rate will likely exceed 90 percent for students who need special education services or aren’t fluent in the English language.  Governor Malloy’s administration approved “cut scores” that will discriminate against African American and Latino children pegging as many as 75 percent as failures.

But while New York teachers, along with teachers in Massachusetts, Chicago, Washington State, Oregon and dozens of other locations join parents in support of the opt out movement, neither the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) nor the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter (AFT-CT) have taken any meaningful action in support of parents who are opting their children, or trying to opt their children, out of the Common Core SBAC test.

The candidates challenging the leadership of the CEA in this spring’s union election, Martin Walsh (President) and Scott Minnick (Vice President) have been very strong supporters of the opt out effort.  Both have written commentary pieces in support of parents and their right to opt out and Scott Minnick’s decision to opt his own children even made the front page of the Hartford Courant.

But at the very moment when parents need support, the present leaders of the CEA and AFT-CT have remained silent about the opt-out movement.

Now is the time for Connecticut’s teacher unions to step up and speak out in support of the opt-out effort.

The following is just a partial list of New York teacher union chapters who have officially endorsed the opt-out movement. Connecticut’s state and local unions need to do the same thing.

Amityville Teachers’ Association
Amsterdam Teachers’ Association
Associated Teachers of Huntington
Babylon Teachers’ Association
Baldwin Teachers Association
Bay Shore Classroom Teachers Association
Bayport- Blue Point Teachers’ Association
Bellmore Faculty Organizaton
Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers
Bellmore Teachers’ Organization
Bellport Teachers Association
Bethpage Congress of Teachers
Brentwood Teachers Association
Brockport Teachers Association
Buffalo Teachers Federation (a variation of the I Refuse resolution)
Carmel Teachers’ Association
Camden Teachers Association
Center Moriches Teachers’ Association
Central Islip Teachers Association
Clarkstown Teachers Association
Commack Teachers Association
Connetquot Teachers Association
Cortland United Teachers
Deer Park Teachers’ Association
East Aurora Faculty Association
Eastport/South Manor Teachers’ Association
East Williston Teachers’ Association
Elwood Teachers Alliance
Farmingdale Federation of Teachers
Freeport Teachers Association
Fulton Teachers Association
Garden City Teachers’Association
Garrison Teachers Association
Glen Cove Teachers’ Association
Half Hollow Hills Teachers’ Association
Hamburg Teachers Association
Hauppauge Teachers Association
Hastings Teachers Association
Hewlett-Woodmere Faculty Association
Hicksville Congress of Teachers
Holley Teachers’ Association
Ichabod Crane Teachers Association
Islip Teachers Association
Kingston Teachers Federation
Lancaster Central Teachers Association
Lake Shore Central Teachers’ Association
Lakeland Federation of Teachers
Lawrence Teachers’ Association
Levittown Teachers Union
Lindenhurst Teachers Association
Little Flower Teachers Association
Locust Valley School Employees Association
Lynbrook Teachers Association
Mahopac Teachers’ Association (adopted a variation of resolution)
Malverne Teachers’ Association
Merrick Faculty Association
Middle Country Teachers Association
Middle Island Teachers Association
Miller Place Teachers Association
MORE Caucus (NYC)
New Hartford Teachers Association
New Paltz United Teachers
New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees
New York Mills Teachers’ Association
Newburgh Teachers’ Association
North Babylon Teachers’ Organization
North Bellmore Teachers Association
North Merrick Faculty Association
North Rockland Teachers Association
North Shore Schools Federated Employees
North Syracuse Education Association
Oceanside Federation of Teachers
Oneonta Teachers’ Association
Orchard Park Teachers Association
Ossining Teachers Association
Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers
Plainedge Federation of Teachers
Plainview-Old Beth Page Congress of Teachers
Port Jefferson Teachers Association
Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association
Ramapo Teachers Association
Rocky Point Teachers Association
Rockville Centre Teachers’ Association
Rome Teachers Association
Sauquoit Valley Teachers Association
Sherburne-Earlville Teachers’ Association
Smithtown Teachers Association
Spencerport Teachers Association
Springville Faculty Association
Shoreham Wading River Teachers Association
Somers Education Association
Teachers Association of Sag Harbor
Three Village Teachers Association
Troy Teachers Association
United Teachers of Harborfields
United Teachers of Northport
United Teachers of Seaford
Valley Central Teachers’ Association
Valley Stream Teachers Association
Wallkill Teachers Association
Wappingers Congress of Teachers
Waterville Teachers Association
West Babylon Teachers Association
West Canada Valley Teachers Association
West Genesee Teachers’ Association
West Hempstead Education Association
West Islip Teachers’ Association
West Seneca Teachers Association
– See more at: http://www.nysape.org/resolution-to-support-the-ldquoi-refuserdquo-movement.html#sthash.JSmjdUJA.dpuf

Celebrating Our History – Modern American Style….

You know that line about history and being condemned to repeat it….

It seems sad, but oddly fitting that as the “holiday” known as Martin Luther King Day comes to an end, a press release arrives with the news that a group of prominent U.S. labor, academic and arts figures have joined together to write a letter of protest concerning the censorship of an important labor mural by the Museum of the City of New York.

The commissioned artwork was created by Connecticut State University professor, artist and activist Mike Alewtz.

The press release announces that, “a group of 35 leading labor officials, artists, authors and academics released an Open Letter sent to the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) and the Puffin Foundation.  The letter protests the refusal of the museum to install a work of art commissioned for the recently created Puffin Gallery in the MCNY by muralist Mike Alewitz.

The press release states,

“As individuals deeply concerned about both the history and current status of the labor movement, we are writing to oppose the suppression and censorship of a major new labor mural, The City at the Crossroads of History.”

And it goes on to explain,

“We believe that events like the strikes of maritime workers, the Stonewall rebellion, the fight for the 8-hour day, rent strikes, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the Black nationalist movement and the rest of our history deserves to be seen by the very people who build and provide the resources to maintain cultural institutions like our foundations and museums.

We believe that Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, Margaret Sanger and a host of other individuals who went to jail or gave their lives for our movement should not be hidden from view.

To deny our legacy, in a gallery that purportedly represents the tradition of social activism, is an insulting slap in the face to activists, artists, unionists and all those whose work contributes to the prosperity of the city.”

You can see the mural by following the link below —- it is spectacular to say the least!

For background about the issue, the announcement adds,

“The mural, composed of four panels, was created by Mike Alewitz over the course of several years. Alewitz is a well-known artist working in the US and internationally.  He is an Associate Professor of Art at Central CT State University, where he directs the mural painting program.

Alewitz’s mural was unanimously praised and accepted by the Puffin Foundations’ officers and the committee of leading historians and cultural figures that oversaw the construction and installation of the Puffin Gallery.  However, MCNY Director Susan Henshaw Jones has refused to install the mural.  Attempts by the National Coalition Against Censorship and others to discuss the issue have not been acknowledged.”

Finally, the media announcement goes on to note that the letter of protest, “comes close to the anniversary of another famed case of New York censorship – February 9 marks the anniversary of the 1934 destruction of Man at the Crossroads, a mural by Diego Rivera that was famously destroyed by Nelson Rockefeller.”

* * *

The full letter, including the list of signers can be found at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/15oBMfjsJgQ9YKnzG56h6O1M4jmsZ9z8sRGa_Nnc1Y_0/pub 

To see the mural – click on the following – A PowerPoint tour of the mural: THE CITY AT THE CROSSROADS OF HISTORY can be accessed via- https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1tIw5DK-Fit900un-WTDPoIajF9wfjp39XJIY7cMHZ5s/pub?start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000

And for more about Connecticut based muralist Mike Alewitz, go to: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FlimRnwePDxeDyRtvGv14acZEX2AIVF2WGCQI4MdNLQ/pub