Connecticut State Ed Dept Bumrushes Bridgeport School Board
This news report shows that the CPE Parent Leadership Institute is VITAL for NYC parents to become a central PowerForce to save and improve public education. If it is happening in Bridgeport, CT., it definitely can happen in New York City!
Takeover Is About More Than Bridgeport: Malloy Must Address Real Problem: Suburban Kids Learn, Poor Kids Fail
By RICK GREEN
The Hartford Courant
July 7, 2011
Bridgeport's forlorn plea for a state takeover of its schools isn't about another dysfunctional school board. It's about our abject failure to deal with the problem that, year in, year out, never fails to go away.
Suburban kids learn. Poor kids fail. It's a problem we won't, or can't, fix. Is it any surprise that an inept school board devolves into a squabbling mess?
One fourth-grader in four in Bridgeport reaches state goals for reading. The number is about the same — or worse — in Hartford, New Britain and New London. It's only slightly better in New Haven. All this has barely changed in decades of hand-wringing, commissions and studies.
No company or college wants graduates like this. We are talking tens of thousands of young people.
This is about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy deciding to make our greatest shame, the failure of city schools, his priority. Whether Malloy takes the lead here will tell us much about the success of his administration and the growth of Connecticut's economy. His office, not surprisingly, has been discussing the proposed takeover with Bridgeport officials for months.
The future of our state very much depends on whether cities like Bridgeport and its 20,000 students figure out a way to succeed. Because if it's not Bridgeport, it's New Britain or East Hartford, New Haven and Hartford. This is where our future workforce is coming from.
Cynics tell me the real problem is the raw material — poor children from dysfunctional families arrive in kindergarten years behind their counterparts. It certainly is. But I'd rather look to the striking success of the Achievement First schools in Hartford and New Haven and other public school programs for a glimpse of what can happen.
At least Hartford and New Haven have a clear schools strategy and strong leadership. Malloy, who showed no reluctance to jump in and pick a favorite in the Hartford mayoral primary last week, must provide the muscle to make sure Bridgeport also gets on track.
"He is not afraid to tackle big problems,'' Malloy's adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, assured me. "Bridgeport has thrown up its hands and said, 'We can't do this.' "
Unfortunately for Malloy, this sticky mess comes at the wrong time and long before his promised legislative session devoted to education reform next year. He doesn't even have a permanent commissioner for the agency that will assist the Bridgeport schools, the state Department of Education. That department is facing a 20 percent cut in staff.
At the meeting Tuesday night where the Bridgeport board voted to ask for state intervention, a lot of folks in the audience of a couple hundred were slamming Mayor Bill Finch, who has little control over city schools and nothing to gain through his support of a takeover just 90 days before a tough primary.
"This is a state of the suburbs, by the suburbs and for the suburbs,'' Finch told me Wednesday before heading into a State Board of Education meeting where a takeover was approved by a 5-4 vote. "That leaves mayors to run quarantine zones for poverty."
Finch wisely thinks Bridgeport ought to be open to a range of solutions: more public school choice for parents, more charter schools, hiring better-trained teachers, and even private school vouchers for children trapped in persistently failing schools.
To make change, Bridgeport will need a strong new leader to replace its underwhelming superintendent of schools, John Ramos, who didn't even attend the board meeting this week where members voted 6-3 to ask for state control. Eventually, the city will probably need an appointed board of education that gives the mayor real authority.
And Bridgeport, which receives thousands of dollars less per pupil than Hartford, will also need more money.
At the top of the list to temporarily take charge in Bridgeport is Steve Adamowski, the highly regarded former superintendent in Hartford. Adamowski isn't perfect (teacher unions loathe him) but he would bring strong leadership, direction and immediately restore confidence of parents and taxpayers.
Just remember, this isn't merely about Bridgeport. It's about whether there is someone in all of Connecticut's government who can step up and finally make sure we address the problems of urban education. We're waiting, governor.