For weeks certain Bridgeport Board of Education members have been calling for an investigation into the legal standing of Interim Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz’s two-year contract with the school district – on Monday, they finally got their way.
The BOE voted, 5 – 4, in favor of asking state Attorney General George Jepsen to weigh in on the matter.
This decision comes after the school board’s attorney, Thomas Mooney of Shipman and Goodwin, publicly vouched for the superintendent’s contract. According to Mooney, Rabinowitz’s contract extension meets all the requirements laid out by state statute. It was even reviewed and approved by the Teacher’s Retirement Board.
Of course, board members Maria Pereira, Sauda Baraka and Howard Gardner know better than Attorney Mooney, the guy who literally wrote the book on Connecticut Education Law, and the state agency responsible for overseeing teacher (and superintendent) pensions.
Despite all of these extremely qualified people and organizations advising them to the contrary, Pereira, Sauda and Gardner spent the greater part of the Monday night’s meeting insisting that the superintendent’s contract could not have been lawfully extended.
According to their interruption of the law, a retired superintendent’s contract can only be extended when a district can’t find a qualified replacement.
All this armchair lawyering raises quite a few questions. For example: Why are board members making legal arguments without their counsel? What purpose is served by them repeatedly questioning the validity of the superintendent’s contract? And, more importantly, who benefits from any of this?
Certainly not the 22,000 children in Bridgeport Public Schools.
If by some incredibly slim chance Pereira, Sauda and Gardner are correct, and the Attorney General rules the superintendent’s current contract is invalid, what exactly would that do for students?
Driving Superintendent Rabinowitz from the district doesn’t remedy the district’s crippling debt. It’s doesn’t bring more resources into Bridgeport schools, nor does it solve the teacher retention problem.
All it would do is create more chaos and discontent.
The three insist that all they’re trying to do is “understand” the district’s legal situation. Except, that explanation seems disingenuous when you consider the exhaustive effort and research they put into disproving their own lawyer’s advice.
If you want to know the real reason they’re attacking the superintendent, look no further than Pereira’s past statements on the matter:
“Ms. Rabinowitz is caving to our corrupt mayor … we might as well have kept Vallas. Her actions speak louder than her words. She needs to be replaced as quickly as possible.”
Or how about:
“Fran Rabinowitz needs to replaced as quickly as possible and a permanent superintendent with a back bone (sic) needs to be hired asap.”
This isn’t about what’s best for students. This isn’t about making sure the district is on the legal high ground, this is about a grudge that’s been brewing for over a year, and that’s truly sad.
Under Superintendent Rabinowitz’s leadership Bridgeport schools are starting to see positive changes. There’s still a long way to go, but it would be a shame for the district to be destabilize because of political pettiness.
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