by Michael Shulansky
Before NECSN’s recent legislative breakfast in Bridgeport began, Zaryah Gordon, an 8th grader at Park City Prep, summed up why she loves her school so much. “The school helps us be better people, she said. “It teaches us values and we follow them. Responsibility. Excellence. Perseverance. They’re all over the school.”
The legislative breakfast, held at Park City Prep Charter School, was a chance for parents, community leaders, students, and educators to hear about the many charter schools in Bridgeport and how charter schools are faring across Connecticut.
Attendees heard from Park City Prep leader Bruce Ravage, parents Victor Lopez and Jessy Toro, student Elisa Martinez, Mayor Bill Finch, Sen. Andres Ayala, Rep. Charlie Stallworth, Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, Rep. Audin Grogins, and City Councilwoman Milta Feliciano, and more.
There are five charter schools in Bridgeport, Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, Bridge Academy, Great Oaks Charter School, New Beginnings Family Academy, and Park City Prep, and support for of them was strong. The positive remarks started with Sen. Ayala, who reinforced that Bridgeport charter school students are deserve to be represented at the capitol.
“As your senator, I don't turn a blind eye to any of my constituents. When we listen, we learn,” said Ayala. “I believe in all Bridgeport children and I believe in a quality education for all.”
State Representative Stallworth agreed, promising, “I'm committed to doing whatever we need to do for our children.”
That support is essential, especially when as NECSN state director Jeremiah Grace noted, there are over 1,000 Bridgeport families on waiting lists.
As they spoke, many of Bridgeport’s elected leaders focused on the importance of offering a choice of schools for Bridgeport children.
“A lot of the parents in my District can't afford to send their kids to private or Catholic school,” said State Representative Ezequiel Santiago. “They should have the option to send their kids to a different school if the school they're at isn't performing.”
State Representative Audin Grogins shared her support both for choice and charters. “I think parents need to have a choice. I did support increased funding [for charter schools] and new charter schools. I will continue to be your advocate.”
Parent Parent Idella Kelsey-Bullock speaks to parents and students at the Bridgeport legislative breakfast.
Local charter parents echoed that sentiment, sharing their own experiences with a few of Bridgeport’s charter schools.
Parent Idella Kelsey-Bullock stood to say that charter schools saved her child's life. “My son moved to a charter high school, and is excited about education again. I don't know where he'd be if they didn't take him.”
Parent Elicia Restrepo had a similar success story. “What amazed me the most is my son Matthew didn't excel until he came to Park City Prep,” she said.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch also attended the breakfast, and pledged his support for the park city’s charter schools. “I'm passionate about the fact that parents deserve a choice.”
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch snapped a selfie with Park City Prep students at NECSN’s recent legislative breakfast.
The mayor praised the host school, saying, “Park City Prep is a great public school. I couldn't be prouder of what [school leader] Bruce Ravage has done. I want this for every kid in Bridgeport.”
In the end, Mayor Finch may have put it best: “I love charter schools,” he said while addressing the crowd.
Take a look at a slideshow of images from the breakfast below.
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