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A membership the Bridgeport BOE says it can’t afford to drop

September 25, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — There are a great number of organizations that no longer have the city school district as a member due to cost.

The Council of Great City Schools is not one of them.

So intent was the city school board on scraping together the 2018-19 membership fee for the nationwide urban school district association that it told former board member Sauda Baraka on Monday that she didn’t have to get up to the microphone to answer questions before the panel took it 6-to-1 vote of approval.

Board member Maria Pereira voted no, saying she did have questions. She also pointed out that the $31,269 membership fee included in the motion was more than the district would be paying since it is reportedly getting a $9,000 discount.

Regardless, Ben Walker, a board member, called the membership important to help the district narrow the achievement gap, build capacity and stay informed.

The district has belong to the council since the 2011-12 school year when Paul Vallas was superintendent. Once he left, it was kept and used as a catalyst to work on a Males of Color imitative championed by Baraka and others.

“We chose them over (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) because they offer the (nationwide) urban agenda,” Baraka said. “Thirty thousand dollars is well worth the cost because of what we get back.”

The board dropped its CABE membership more than a year ago when it made millions in cuts to its budget. It faced a similar exercise for the current school year.

Before leaving the board last year, Baraka led a Males of Color Ad Hoc committee that held forums designed to strengthen curriculum and policies so that more male students of color graduated, went on to college and avoided the school to prison pipeline.

Ultimately she would like to see the district create an office and a coordinator who can regularly get information from the organization to inform district work, curriculum and policies.

“They have been a resource to us,” Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson said of the council. Johnson plans to attend the council’s annual conference next month in Baltimore.

The council has 72 urban districts as members. Most much larger than Bridgeport. Its mission is to advocate for inner-city students through legislation, research and media relations. It provides a network for school districts sharing common problems to exchange information and possible solutions.

Some 7.3 million students are served by districts that are members.

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