Bridgeport BOE Chair Puts Brakes On More State Funding For Schools

Two Bridgeport schools are being considered for inclusion in the state’s Commissioner’s Network, but some members of Bridgeport’s Board of Education want to wait to see what happens before moving forward with turning around chronically failing schools.

The Commissioner’s Network provides a framework and funding to the state’s lowest-performing schools. There are currently 11 schools in the network, two in Bridgeport, all taking advantage of the increase in education dollars and all making real changes that have the potential to improve education for every child.

But Bridgeport Board of Education Chairman Sauda Baraka wants to wait.

Bridgeport ranks 163 out of 165 school districts in Connecticut, with more students trapped in failing schools than in any other city in the state. Just 60 percent of students graduate from high school in Bridgeport, according to the State Department of Education. Fewer than one in four 3rd graders in Bridgeport are reading at grade level. What in the world is Baraka waiting for? [State Department of Education, Connecticut District Performance Report Year 2012-2013]

The turnaround plans crafted by school leaders interested in accessing the resources that come with being a part of the Commissioner’s Network are typically three years in duration.

Does Chairman Baraka think Bridgeport’s schools should wait three years before they begin to improve? Thousands of kids should remain stuck in failing schools because she’s OK with the status quo?

The BOE chair said she didn’t like making the decision on the state’s timeline. “We were told we had to move forward on it. There were definite deadlines,” Baraka said, according to Connecticut Post reporter Linda Lambeck.[Connecticut Post, 1/11/2014]

Other members of Bridgeport’s board see things somewhat differently.

“I don’t want to take a chance of the state saying you missed the deadline, you are out,” Herman Illingworth said. “Unfortunately right now, this is the only means we have to get additional funds and to bring change.”

“I agree,” said board member Joe Larcheveque. “At least for now it is an opportunity we can’t pass up because as of now there are no other opportunities. We would love to do this for every school tomorrow. Now we have to do it a school at a time through this network.”

Bridgeport kids need to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. They can’t wait. Further, Bridgeport needs better schools, for a better economy and a better future for all.

I hope chairman Baraka and the other members of the Bridgeport Board of Education keep this in mind, as they try to stall the development and implementation of specialized education models for the schools and students who most need change.



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