Study This!

I had no idea that Connecticut’s urban public school systems rank dead last in the country. The state’s performance is masked due to the many excellent schools in our mostly white suburban towns.

I may have the opportunity to help an educational reform group and so I’m doing research to get up to speed. There are many common misconceptions. Perhaps the worst of the lot: kids from bad neighborhoods can’t be expected to learn the way kids in towns like Westport do because their home life is messed up.

A variation of this myth: Teachers can’t be expected to deliver results when kids don’t get support at home.

Several Charter Schools in the inner city are proving both of these views wrong.

I visited one in Bridgeport and witnessed a remarkable environment for learning. Recent test scores outperformed neighboring Fairfield.

Contrary to what some believe, Charter schools do not skim the cream of a bad neighborhood, a lottery system determines students. These high performing urban kids face the same family and economic challenges that their public school counterparts do—the performance difference is due to the system, the teachers, the culture.

Another common misconception: Charter Schools are for-profit organizations. In Connecticut, Charter Schools must be not-for-profits.

Charter Schools are, however, proof points that kids at the bottom of the economic barrel can excel in school. Consider the possibilities for our communities and hiring organizations in the public and private sectors if the bulk of the next generation of urban children became scientists, software engineers, and teachers, instead of dropouts.

Public Schools can’t change overnight, but there is common ground and low hanging fruit—ideas, concepts, and approaches that are working in Charter urban schools that the Public system could adopt immediately without any loss of face or political power; for little money too.

But nobody trusts anybody and so these Charter schools operate like an island, cut off from the mainland. There are exceptions and some public schools are adopting elements of what is working in their Charter neighbors, but less than 2% of Connecticut’s students are in Charter schools. Kids need help now.

At the end of the day we all have to stay focused on what’s best for the children, easy to say, hard to do.

First Year Little League Coaches are Saints



Inspired by the incredible play of those kids in the Little League World Series, I was reminded of earlier this year watching my girl friend’s eight year old play ball for the first time. I wrote this piece for the Good Men Project. Here’s the link:

Festival Drug Use a Turn Off When You Bring Your Kids

Last year I took my girlfriend and her kids to the Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, CT. This annual event has grown in scope and is part of a trend across the country in music festivals.

Although I’ve been impressed by the improvements each year in set-up and execution of the event, I’m not going this year because last year the open use of drugs during the day made us uncomfortable given that we had a fourteen and eight year old with us.

I’m no prude, but it is clear that the festival cut a deal with the town of Bridgeport. The cops are looking the other way and allowing the Vibes security to handle the situation. I’m not bothered by discreet puffs of pot, but kids openly smoking bongs, rolling joints, and snorting God knows what in broad day light just doesn’t cut it in my book.

I get that the infusion of cash this event brings to the area is essential given how tight budgets at the State and Local level are nowadays. An article in the CT Post over the weekend was all about the money and jobs the event brings the area.

But if you want families to attend (and my guess is, they don’t really care), then you’ve got to keep that activity out of site until deep into the night, and even then, I’m wondering about the mixed signals we send young people about drugs – it’s okay here, but not there.

Clearly there’s a way to balance the need for a town to allow such an event and for an event to set ground rules so that kids can still do what kids do. Perhaps it’s time to also address the contradictory messages our government sends in regards to pot.

Oddly, this reminds me of global warming, a nonissue in this year’s presidential campaign because we need jobs and we must be less dependent on oil. Here in Bridgeport, drug use is okay for the weekend because we need the work and the cash.

Batter Up


Saturday night we took my girlfriend’s kids to see the Bridgeport Bluefish, a nearby minor league team. It was Scout Night and after the game there had fireworks and then we camped in the outfield.

It was a cool and blustery night, but that didn’t stop the kids from running around well past midnight.

We had to be out of there by 7 a.m. Sunday morning, Father’s Day.

Several parents said happy father’s day to me and I wished them a good day too – I’m 53 and it’s the first time anyone has wished me a Happy Father’s Day. It felt strange, but if you’re hanging out with the Boy Scouts you’re either a parent or a perv—best to be mistaken for a parent than the latter.

Afterward, I took Mary and her two boys to a diner for breakfast.

At some point the little one said, “Sometimes people think you’re my Dad.”

“Sometimes people think you’re my Dad,” I volleyed back.

He smiled and dug into his pancakes.

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