SIX BOE Members Respond to Gardner’s Temper Tantrum Over Bassick Principal Pick

Whose job is it to run the day-to-day operations of a school district?

You’d think this would be a no-brainer for the Bridgeport Board of Education – but incredibility, this question has caused mounting internal strife amongst members.

What started as a conflict between Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz and the Bassick High School’s School Governance Council (SGA) over who to hire as principal has transformed into yet another politically charged squabble.

According to the Connecticut Post’s Linda Lambeck, who’s been covering this story as it’s unfolded, Gardner refused to attend a BOE Personnel Meeting two weeks ago in protest against the superintendent’s decision to not hire Byron Williams as Bassick High School Principal.

If you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Byron Williams who was fired from the BMA two years ago, then rehired, only to quickly resign within the matter of a few months.

Gardner told the Post that if the superintendent ignores input and is unwilling to respect to the process, “we should not waste people’s time by asking the committees to try again.”

If not showing up to a committee meeting you are chair of wasn’t enough, Gardner also sent an email to superintendent, accusing her of rejecting Williams for the position on “flimsy” or “obscure” grounds.

Gardner added that in “far too many cases … marginally qualified candidates with social and political ties are being pushed forward, at the expense of more qualified candidates with no political ties and at the expense of the district at large.”

These accusations are ridiculous for a multitude of reasons, but most importantly: The district’s official hiring procedures – procedures Gardner voted on last year— grant the superintendent final authority on all hiring decisions.

While state law does mandate that SGAs should have a voice in hiring leadership staff at their school, it does not, nor should it, supersede the superintendent’s authority to ultimately decide on her staff.

The only thing that’s “flimsy” is Gardner’s thinly veiled attempt at stirring controversy to win political points.

Gardner happens to be running for Mayor, and much like his close ally Sauda Baraka, he also happens to have a penchant for manufacturing conflict – for example, when they both led the charge to disband the highly successful and popular security merger. 

Luckily, this time around six of Gardner’s fellow BOE members decided to step up against his ludicrous accusations, calling him out for his comments.

On Wednesday, they issued a statement signed by every other current BOE member aside Baraka, refuting his claims:

“We strongly object to the comments made by our fellow Board Member, Howard Gardner, concerning Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz. More specifically, we strongly object to his criticism of her recent decision not to hire the individual recommended to her as the preferred candidate for the principal’s position at Bassick High School. In particular, Mr. Gardner’s assertion that “in far too many cases, marginally qualified candidates with social and political ties are pushed forward” by the Superintendent, is absolutely false. Not only is that statement wrong, but it recklessly impugns the integrity that she brings to the hiring process.

Where are the facts to support the spurious claim that this Superintendent has ever hired, promoted or terminated anyone’s employment in the District because of his or her social connections and/or political affiliations? There isn’t a shred of evidence to support that view, which is why we not only find our colleague’s allegations shockingly irresponsible and inaccurate, but also verging on libelous.

We have worked closely with the Superintendent for the past year and a half and believe that in all personnel matters she is driven only by the following criteria: that current and prospective employees have the experience, passion for excellence, and work ethic to inspire everyone in a school around a vision of academic and personal success for each student. This vision is informed by high standards and a belief in the power of teamwork to achieve that goal of success. Not once, as alleged, has the Superintendent advanced “marginally qualified candidates” for any reason, much less social and political connections. As she will tell you, and we know this to be true, Fran Rabinowitz has no hidden political agenda when making the myriad of decisions that she does every day…

… Honesty. Trust. Respect. Integrity. These are not mere words. These are values that have deep meaning for all of us–including Fran Rabinowitz—who are striving to better the lives of and set an example for Bridgeport’s children. We urge Howard Gardner to re-consider what he has alleged about the Superintendent’s conduct in light of these principles, which we hold dearly.”

[The full statement can be found within Linda Lambeck’s article]


Bravo Bridgeport BOE! Perhaps, now you guys can get back to dealing with actual issues facing Bridgeport Public Schools.




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