Does 35 Years of Service Absolve You? A Look at the Perez- Dickson Decision

The minority board members—in this case: Herman Illingworth, Leticia Colon and Thomas Mulligan—were “shocked, appalled and devastated” by the majority’s decision to allow Tisdale Principal Carmen Perez-Dickson to continue with the district. [“We are Shocked,” 10/31/2013]

Last Wednesday, after over six hours of deliberation, the board decided to suspend, rather than terminate, Perez-Dickson. Perez-Dickson was a 35-year veteran of the district who was recommended for termination after three security tapes surfaced that show her “man handling” two kindergarten students.

To all those present at the board hearings, it seemed up until the very end that the vote would come down on partisan lines. However, shockingly, vice chairman Dr. Jacqueline Kelleher was the swing vote.

Kelleher explained in a two page opinion released Thursday that, despite concern over the intervention methods used, she was “inclined to consider another route of penalty for these actions.” [Opinion, Jacqueline Kelleher, 10/31/2013]

Kelleher, as well as the entire board (barring Moales and Periera who recused themselves from the hearing), agreed that Perez-Dickson used excessive force. The main discrepancy was what actions should be taken next.

According to the written decision approved by the board, one of the reasons they voted in favor a more lenient penalty was that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) could not substantiate allegations of physical and emotion abuse and physical neglect. [Perez-Dickson Decision, 10/31/2013]

I have a bit of an issue with this conclusion.

While the DCF could not substantiate allegations of physical and emotional abuse, they DID find substantial evidence of physical neglect, according to their summary of finding. DCF found that Perez-Dickson used “excessive physical force,” which showed “a serious disregard for the children’s safety and welfare.” The only reason they could not substantiate any additional or more serious claims was the length of time between the incident and it being reported to them. [Perez-Dickson Decision, 10/31/2013]

In addition, the majority of the board felt Perez-Dickson’s “lengthy and accomplished professional career with the district” warranted a “lesser penalty.”

Why was Perez-Dickson’s 35 years of service among considerations?

I understand that termination would have affected Perez-Dickson’s livelihood; however, isn’t the board’s responsibility first and foremost to the children attending Bridgeport schools?

It’s highly disturbing that the board put the needs of an adult above the needs of the children involved.

Even more disturbing—it was recently revealed that Sauda Baraka, one of the members of the board who voted against termination, was a former client of Josephine Miller and friend of Perez-Dickson. I find it interesting that throughout the trial, she and Bobby Simmons made every effort to make sure Perez-Dickson was found not guilty, including making excuses for her behavior. [Only in Bridgeport, 11/1/2013]


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