What a shameful state of affairs — on the very same day the New York Times published an article detailing the gross inequity faced by students attending Bridgeport schools, a political feud between board members halted the city’s school board.
Monday afternoon, the Connecticut Post reported that school board chairman Dennis Bradley canceled the school board’s regular meeting this week, sending out a press release calling for the resignation of Maria Pereira.
In the release, he says that he’s being backed by three other members, Joe Larcheveque, Kevin McSpirit and Annette Segarra-Negron, who say they refuse to convene until Pereira steps down.
This came after Pereira filed a lawsuit against the city and state Monday morning, challenging Mayor Joseph Ganim appointment of Negron, who was recently chosen to replace David Hennessey.
These two events are likely connected. For those following Bridgeport’s school board, this protest isn’t entirely shocking, and may not even be unwarranted. The feud between Pereira and Bradley has long been simmering, with fighting at meetings becoming increasingly intense.
The fact is, even before this recent development the school board barely functioned.
Even Judge Thomas Moukawsher called out the dysfunction last week in his extraordinary ruling on the landmark education funding case, CCJEF v. Rell:
“At the board of education, the interim superintendent reports that she routinely faces four to five hours of harassment from disgruntled board members. Real board business in Bridgeport usually doesn’t even get started until around 11 p.m.”
Pereira regularly hijacks agendas, spending the majority of the time stirring controversy against the superintendent, the chairman, and the mayor. Her politicking became a distraction that often pushed discussion of the district’s mounting financial and academic issues to the end of lengthy meetings — if these issues ever got discussed at all.
Whether board member frustrations are warranted or not, this latest move comes at a terrible cost: the stability of an already troubled district.
A district, that the New York Times wrote, can’t afford school buses for high school students. A district where thousands of children are languishing in crumbling, low-performing schools. A district that last year couldn’t find enough math and science teachers for Harding High School, leaving over 200 underclassmen with no STEM teachers for half the year.
More than anything right now, especially in light of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision on the CCJEF case, which struck down the state’s unfair education funding system, Bridgeport’s 21,000 students need real advocates that are going to ensure our community’s voice is being heard.
The state is being ordered to reform its funding system within the next 180 days. We have an opportunity to get it right for a change. The fact that our school board is in disarray at such a pivotal time is an unfortunate statement on the priorities of all those involved.
I think we can all agree that Bridgeport kids deserve better than this!
Here’s an excerpt from Bradley’s press release originally posted on Only in Bridgeport:
Chairman Bradley issued the following statement explaining his decision to cancel the meeting: “On the Bridgeport Board of Education we recognize the myriad challenges faced by the Bridgeport School District. We believe that our Interim Superintendent, Fran Rabinowitz is the one best placed to continue to meet those challenges until such time that she is replaced by a new permanent Superintendent – a process which has commenced. As board members we do not and will not always agree with the positions and policies proposed by Ms. Rabinowitz; however, we strongly believe she should always be treated with fairness and due respect. This same standard should apply to anyone that sits on the Bridgeport Board of Education or any other staff member who works for the betterment of the 21,000 students in our school system.
Board of Education meetings and Board correspondence should also be conducted with civility and personal respect. At present, this is not the case. Additionally, our Interim Superintendent should not be under harassment nor threatened with Board reprimands. These actions, as well as various forms of insults and bullying during board meetings, are initiated primarily by one Board member, Ms. Maria Pereira. Ms. Pereira’s actions are distracting to the Interim Superintendent and the Board as a whole as we try to accomplish the very difficult and demanding task of running one of the poorest and most challenged districts in the state of Connecticut. The lack of decorum on the Bridgeport Board of Education furthermore creates an impression of dysfunction in our school district, an impression that can potentially jeopardize much needed funding and the attraction of permanent Superintendent candidates.
This mode of conducting business can no longer continue. As such, we as a group have agreed that we will no longer regularly attend Board of Education meetings until such time as Ms. Pereira resigns her position. We understand that the lack of a quorum at meetings will delay many important actions such as the search for a permanent Superintendent; however, we believe in order to make those decisions the Board at very least should be functional. The day to day business of the School District, such as children attending class, teachers and staff being hired and placed, and new construction projects will continue unabated. We all stand ready to resume regular meeting attendance immediately upon confirmation of Ms. Pereira’s resignation.”
Here’s a link to the complaint filed by Pereira against the city and state:
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