Mr.Tiago, John 5th-Grade Teacher- Columbus School
Preparing Our Youth for Their Tomorrow
As a proud graduate of the Bridgeport public schools, it is important to me to support and invest appropriately in our children's education. Improving the education system in the City of Bridgeport requires excellent and transparent leadership that is committed to providing students with the best possible learning experience. By prioritizing the needs of students and working collaboratively with educators, families, and community leaders, Bridgeport can create a more equitable and effective educational system that prepares students for success in post-graduate education and careers. Through a combination of innovative programs, data-driven decision-making, and a focus on equity and inclusion, Bridgeport can become a model for educational excellence, leading the urban district in the region and beyond. As Mayor, I will personally support community efforts to increase resources and improve programs for all children in Bridgeport.
I plan to partner with the Board of Education, school administration, teachers, parents, students, and nonprofit agencies that provide services to our youth. There is an immediate need to strengthen or re-establish relationships with many stakeholders and organizations who have been partners and supporters of our youth and education in the past so that Bridgeport can regain its reputation as a leading urban district in Connecticut. Together we can develop a comprehensive, credible, and grassroots initiative to implement starting in 2024 as Mayor.
Strengthening Family and Community Engagement:
Family and community involvement are critical to student success, "It all begins and ends with a family." My recommendations will focus on engaging families and community members in the educational process by offering parent-teacher conferences that support working family schedules, community events, and other opportunities for families to get involved in their children's education. The pandemic had a detrimental effect on the quality of education for students across the system. Many of our students could not adjust or adapt to distance learning. My administration will work with the Board of Education and all educational stakeholders to develop occupational training programs to support this community. With regard to youth in crisis, we will take a proactive approach by re-engaging our youth in school and providing workforce development and mentorship programs. Through the City's Parks department, we will work to build recreational facilities such as pools, bike tracks, outdoor rinks, etc., that provide an outlet and place for creative energy. In collaboration with school administrators, we will create mentorship programs across the city. Our students can be exposed to various career paths while being taught skill sets that provide practical application. Initiate programs that have the potential to create a direct pipeline for employment opportunities by offering city department internships. Finally, we will work to prevent youth crime by collaborating with the Board of Education and the Police Department to create youth programs that foster a community environment that builds a more robust and safer city for our future generation.
Enhance Teacher Training and Support:
A critical step to improving the education system in Bridgeport is to provide teachers with better training, support, and attractive salaries. Teachers should have access to professional development opportunities focusing on best practices for teaching diverse student populations. Additionally, teachers should receive regular feedback and coaching directly aligned with the State of Connecticut's initiatives to help them improve their instruction. We will create an environment to attract and retain our talented leaders, educators, and support staff.
Ending the Longstanding Disinvestment of the City Into the School System:
The municipal leadership of our city has historically not provided the school district with the resources it needs to educate our students. As Mayor, I will work with my team members to actively effectuate and conduct a forensic audit of every department's revenue and expenditures, including the Board of Education, at the city's expense. By utilizing collected data, we can work to shift the necessary dollars to the school district to support the students in the classroom without having to burden our taxpayers with increased taxes further. Residents of Bridgeport are already paying an enormous amount of property taxes and cannot see any evidence of these taxes in their neighborhood schools.
Petition the State to Equitably Fund the Bridgeport Public Schools:
Historically, the City of Bridgeport has not received the equitable Education State funding it deserves due to implementing a new Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. For the first time, the State's proposed budget increases ECS over Hartford and New Haven while inadequate for Bridgeport. I will encourage the Governor to continue to produce bi-annual budgets that equitably increase funding by giving the City of Bridgeport, which has one of the most significant and most diverse student population districts, boosts in spending. This is especially important because our school district currently relies on many one-time revenue sources (i.e., American Rescue Plan/COVID-19 money) that will not be sustainable. As a result, our school district can see a budget shortfall or fiscal cliff if the administration does not address the financial issues. My team will petition for support from the State of Connecticut with a clear plan on how to move forward, securing a sustainable program for spending and revenue generation for our schools. I would also ensure that Bridgeport's lobbying efforts that will bring equitable funding to the city. There is no reason the City of Bridgeport's students should receive 10 million - 12 million less additional financing than many smaller districts and compared to smaller communities.
Providing Equitable Access to Resources:
Many students in Bridgeport lack the resources they need to succeed in school. This proposal recommends that the district invests in resources such as technology, textbooks, and other instructional materials to ensure all students have access to the tools they need to succeed.
Consistent Relationship Building:
As Mayor, I will set regular meetings with the key stakeholders of our education system in the City of Bridgeport. The goal of attending meetings with the City of Bridgeport Board of Education and others is to improve the State of our educational systems by building relationships between key stakeholders, from the superintendent to the teachers. Through this hands-on approach, we aim to gain a complete understanding of the scope of the issues and set measurable priorities for improvement.
Prioritizing Physical, Environmental, and Emotional Safety:
To improve the physical safety in Bridgeport's school system, we must upgrade and maintain the school infrastructure. This includes regular safety inspections and repairs of building systems such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. Additionally, upgrading security cameras and alarms can help deter and quickly respond to potential threats. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2017-2018 school year, 94 percent of public schools in the United States had recorded that they controlled access to buildings during school hours, showing that it is becoming a widely recognized practice. Training staff and students on emergency procedures, such as lockdown drills, is crucial for ensuring physical safety. We must strengthen an annual safety assessment of every school facility to include a review/update of the internal safety and crisis intervention plan with school administration. Our nation has been convulsed by school shootings for over two decades Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, Uvalde in Texas and, recently, Nashville. This community must be proactive and current with plans and efforts to keep all of Bridgeport’s schools physically safe. In anticipation and new state legislation concerning the use of School Resource Officers (SROs), the Police department and the Board of Education would implement new formal agreement concerning the duties, assignment, and supervision of these officers.
To improve environmental safety in Bridgeport's public school system, addressing issues such as water quality and air pollution is essential. Schools can regularly test water sources to ensure they are contaminant-free and install filtration systems if needed. Additionally, schools can implement green initiatives, such as using non-toxic cleaning products and reducing energy usage, to improve air quality and create a healthier learning environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality can significantly impact student health and academic performance, so that these efforts can have far-reaching benefits. The recent HVAC State grant program awards show Bridgeport, the State's largest city, receiving about $982,000, Fairfield over $6.2 M, and Waterbury $15.96 M.
To improve emotional safety in Bridgeport's public school system, schools can implement policies and programs that promote positive school culture and prevent bullying and harassment. This includes regular training for staff and students on recognizing and addressing these issues and providing resources for victims and their families. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2017-2018 school year, 20 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied, making it a prevalent issue that must be addressed. Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students can also promote emotional safety and improve overall academic performance.
In the recent past, the transition of former school buildings to other community uses was completed in a timely and successful manner, i.e., Webster School to senior housing, Elias Howe School to housing, Newfield School to the Police Academy, and part of the Maplewood School campus to housing. However, the abandonment of the former Harding High School facility was an act of gross negligence. There is a need to immediately plan for the use of the current Bassick High School facility in anticipation of the school moving to a new facility on the UB campus. This needs the collaborative effort of the Board of Education and Economic Development and Public Facilities Departments. There is also a need for the Board of Education to discuss the future of the Military Academy facility when that program moves to the new Bassick. Other school facilities that need to be considered immediately for needed physical upgrades by the Board of Education and the administration include Classical Studies, Hall, and Edison schools. There is a need to take immediate action on these buildings.
As Mayor of Bridgeport, I will personally engage and focus on improving the quality of education that every Bridgeport student rightfully deserves. Bridgeport has seven charter schools the most of any Connecticut community and more parochial school campuses than any other large city. I will collaborate and work with all necessary stakeholders within our city to create a safe learning environment with quality instruction for all students. I will not shy away from hard conversations, especially about improving the quality of life for tomorrow's future and supporting our youth to be post-graduate education and career ready. I will always stand by my belief in the importance of educating our youth in bringing all the necessary resources and improvements to the Educational System. My administration will be committed to our children through the educational system while remaining fiscally responsible. It takes a village to raise a child, and it starts at the top.