On Monday, during a three and a half hour “community meeting,” Bridgeport Board of Education members proposed a plan to dissolve the current District Parent Advisory Council’s executive board — invalidating thousands of parent’s votes.
The District Parent Advisory Council, or DPAC for short, is a districtwide parent-led organization that has existed in Bridgeport for over 40 years. Originally required by federal Title I law to promote parent engagement, Bridgeport is one of the last districts in the state that still has a DPAC. If this is voted on, it would mark the second time in two years that DPAC’s leadership structure was dissolved and re-established.
Monday evening’s get together, originally posted as a special meeting, turned into a “unofficial community meeting,” because there was no quorum and no meeting minutes were taken. Only the the BOE members who called for the special meeting, Maria Pereira, Sauda Baraka, Ben Walker and Howard Gardner, were present.
In case you’re wondering, yes, this is same group of BOE members who called for Dennis Bradley’s removal as chair last week. Also, the same group that’s been fighting over the status of Superintendent Rabinowitz’s contract.
They chose not to cancel the meeting and instead kept the matter among themselves, because as Walker says in the video above, they’d “run the risk of being voted down.”
I wonder, is this what they mean by democracy at work? A small minority of members holding meetings with a small minority of parents to make decisions without the knowledge of the broader community.
We Don’t Want To Interfere, Except When We Do…
Monday evening’s meeting was largely led and organized by Maria Pereira, who spent almost an hour lecturing parents on the events that lead up to the dissolution of the DPAC’s executive board last year, insisting that the current DPAC executive board was illegally formed.
“We want you to be independent,” said Pereira to a group of about two dozen parents. “You don’t have a right to exist, because the board didn’t give you a right to exist” — an almost ironic statement coming from Pereira.
Hardly an unbiased observer — Pereira was a member of the DPAC executive board that was dissolved last year, and subsequently sued the school district and interim superintendent over the matter. The whole basis of the suit, which Pereira admitted to raising the money for, was that BOE had no authority to dissolve the DPAC leadership structure, because it was a separate entity. Turned out that wasn’t true.
The suit was eventually dropped after a motion for a temporary restraining order was dismissed by a federal judge.
At no point during Pereira’s history lesson did she mention the reason executive board was dissolved was because the BOE attorney, Thomas Mooney of Shipman and Goodwin, believed DPAC leadership was violating the first amendment rights of parents and thought this left the BOE open for litigation.
Long time readers of the blog will remember that it was parents, mostly school PAC presidents, who fought for the reorganization of the DPAC. At the time, many parents felt the old executive board was disenfranchising them.
Unfortunately, It seems those old wounds never healed, with current DPAC members, many of them former members of the dissolved DPAC executive board, saying they feel that the new leadership board started off on the wrong foot.
“There has been a lot of contention,” said Rose Jone Clark, a new executive board member and Central High School PTSO president. “I’m outrageously disgusted by some of the conversations that have happened and the way the executive board is operating.”
Clark, wasn’t alone. Many of the other parent leaders present were upset and in favor of the proposal presented by Pereira. Of course, there’s always two sides to any story — unfortunately the other side was never given a fair shot to speak.
According to the DPAC President Jessica Martinez, the board members who organized the meeting never sent out notice to any school or DPAC leadership, saying she found out about the meeting by chance on Saturday, despite the fact the DPAC was only topic on the agenda.
This meeting was by no means spontaneous and has been rumored for months.
On Monday, Pereira is going to present a resolution to dissolve Bridgeport’s district wide parent organization, claiming there’s consensus…but is there?
While there may be some internal issues, do seven or eight parents speak for all of Bridgeport? How about the thousands that voted in PAC elections in February? Will this be another case of a loud minority snuffing out all other voices?
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