After interviewing several parents throughout Bridgeport I noticed a striking trend: Every single one admitted that they had at some point contemplated moving because of the schools.
Not because they didn’t like the neighborhood, not because of the high taxes, as some would assume, but because of their discontent with the school system. Not only that, most say many of their friends have either moved out of the city or are planning to soon.
This is huge problem. Not just for Bridgeport schools, but the community has a whole.
Even Paula Valencia, whose interview was published earlier this week, admitted she was seriously thinking about moving out of the city despite having nothing but good things to say about the schools her children are currently attending (all magnet schools).
“I was planning to move from Bridgeport,” said Valencia. “My oldest, he went to Central High School for one year, the first year. I wasn’t happy with the school. I didn’t like it; he was crying, ‘Oh mommy I don’t like this.’” That year, her son’s phone was stolen and he was upset by the fighting at the school.
“He did very bad that year.”
Valencia stayed because her son got into Fairchild Wheeler, but there are many parents that did not. According to the state data, there are over 2,000 fewer students attending Bridgeport schools since 2005.
Trumbull Resident and mother of three Julisa Jimenez’s eldest son is a part of that statistic.
Julisa Jimenez: “We were happy in that house, the only reason we moved was the schools”
Jimenez does not live in Bridgeport, or at least not anymore. She moved literally only blocks away from her former house in Bridgeport, to nearby Trumbull, so that her children could have access to better schools.
Her two older sons currently attend Middlebrooke Elementary School in Trumbull. The eldest, 11, started his school career in Park City Magnet School in Bridgeport for pre-K.
Jimenez came to Bridgeport from New York City around 10 years ago when her first son was still a baby. She began her house search first in New Rochelle, but they settled in Bridgeport not only because the cost of housing was cheaper, but because they fell in love with the neighborhood.
“So we took the exit 48, looking around here, we said “Oh, that’s beautiful, that’s nice and quiet,” said Jimenez. Her elation for her new home didn’t last long.
“When we start telling the family, ‘Oh, we buy a house in Bridgeport,’” Her family replied, “‘Bridgeport! Why in Bridgeport, the school system is really bad’”
Jimenez began looking into the neighborhood school Wilbur Cross, passing by the school on occasion to check out the area, where she said she often saw kids fighting and other illegal activity.
“We always take that street to Route 28, we see the policemen, see so many people fighting in the street and I say I’m not comfortable sending my kids there,” said Jimenez.
“When we were searching, the school level that school [Wilbur Cross] was I think number 2 between one to ten, you know how they qualify the school’s ‘level’ and Trumbull was 9. So, that was a huge difference between one another.”
Unlike Valencia’s children, Jimenez’s eldest son did not get into the magnet school they applied to. Jimenez instead enrolled her son into St. Augustine, a Catholic school in Bridgeport, which was only a temporary solution to her problem.
“The reason we moved to Trumbull is because it’s going to be a second payment from school,” said Jimenez.
Once her second child was ready for school, she realized that the cost of two school tuition payments was higher than the cost difference between a house in Bridgeport and a house in Trumbull. So Jimenez and her husband sold their house just before her younger son started elementary school.
“We were happy in that house, the only reason we moved was the schools”
The Disparity between Bridgeport and its Neighbors
Despite children living only a stones’ throw away from each other, the difference between Bridgeport and Trumbull public schools couldn’t be greater, in not just resources but also performance.
If you look at the school performance index, which is a number the state uses to compare Connecticut schools using factors including CMTs scores, Wilbur Cross scored a 50 last year. Middlebrooke, where her children currently attend elementary school, has an SPI of 90.
The difference in disciplinary incidents is quite frankly shocking. Where Middlebrook elementary only had 2 disciplinary incidents in the 2012-2013 school year, Wilbur Cross had over 1,400.
Jimenez says she doesn’t understand why the “levels of the schools are so low. “
“How is it that the schools are that collectively bad in Bridgeport?”
While Bridgeport’s affluent neighbor to the north definitely has the resource advantage—Trumbull spends $17,850 per student and Bridgeport spends $13,125— Jimenez is not convinced that’s the only problem Bridgeport schools are facing.
“Obviously if they want changes they need to make changes,” said Jimenez
To Jimenez part of the problem is acceptance of the status quo. She believes that new blood is needed in Bridgeport’s schools to affect real change.
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