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A failing high school in one of America’s richest counties

LA School Report | May 16, 2016

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Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Courtesy BHS)

Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Courtesy BHS)

By Naomi Nix

(Bridgeport, Connecticut)  —When veteran Bridgeport journalist Nancy Hendrick greeted the start of 1961 with a blistering column called “What’s Wrong With Bridgeport,” the inequalities that afflict the city today were already evident everywhere she looked.

“Suddenly we are all aware of the sharp contrast between private opulence and public squalor that exists within our unprecedented prosperity,” she wrote, going on to describe the “rabbit warrens” of the South End, where “the unloved, unwelcome minority groups live in jammed-in discomfort” as well as “the dilapidated sin-tenements on the East Side that should have the torch of public indignation set to them.”

Bridgeport evoked a similar response later that week among state educators wrapping up an evaluation of Bassick High School.  The Connecticut Post headlined its January 12 coverage: “Report ‘Indicts’ City For Educational Ills,” telling readers that the evaluators were laudatory about the school’s teachers but withering in their assessment of the city’s lack of financial support — noting with special emphasis that students were forced to pay for their own books, science equipment, globes and maps.

“This situation makes a mockery of a free public education. Only a community grown callous over the years could allow such a condition to continue year after year,” they said. “If Bridgeport were a poor community in a poor state in a poor nation, this condition might be more easily understood.”

Fifty-five years later, Bridgeport is now largely a poor community — though Connecticut remains one of the richest states in the country — and life at Bassick High School has only gotten worse, even as the greater powers that Hendrick tried to awaken continue to largely ignore it.

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