A Grade For Aresta Johnson And A Request For Respect

Aresta Johnson addresses gathering at opening of new Harding High School.

It’s no picnic in the park running Bridgeport’s public school system while juggling nine egos on the Board of Education so on one level a nearly three out of four rating evaluation by your bosses is pretty darn good, but then the give and take between Superintendent of Schools Aresta Johnson and board chair John Weldon shows it’s not all milk and honey.

The school board’s evaluation describes Johnson as a strong academic leader. In the area of board relations and communications she was graded low. This is the trapdoor for a school super: devotion to student achievement while negotiating the capricious board egos and factions. Johnson, a popular figure in her early tenure, had her say in public.

From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:

“From the initial time of my appointment as superintendent in spring of 2017, I have made concerted effort to improve outcomes for all children,” Johnson said, reading from prepared remarks. “I am asking for a level of fairness and respect. I did not see that over (the) 2017-18 (school year).”

The candid exchange–which qualified for executive session–was conducted in public at Johnson’s request, as was the bulk of her late August evaluation process.

The session ended with three goals set for Johnson in the current school year: better her relationship with the board, increase parent engagement and focus more on bully prevention and record keeping. The board has faulted the district’s low verified bullying tally.

Full story here.

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11 comments

  1. I am not certain why this article appears at this time. I had believed that 8 of 9 BOE members had supplied a rating and someone did the math previously. Anyway, I just referred to the BOE site and discovered that October was still promoted as Bullying Prevention Month. I agree that “Kindness can beat bullying” yet bullying still occurs in enough quantity to be of genuine concern for the effect it has on the individual who is the target of “predators”.
    From a practical viewpoint it would be helpful for the individual who is in charge of “bullying” response in the City to post the numbers, by school for the past couple years to spot trends if any. Resources from the State or City policy might also be included. Communication is critical. If I do not know my rights as a parent of a student who comes home with a story about being verbally, physically or electronically attacked, how can I exercise them?? If a complaint is made, what is City BOE response protocol? (By the way this is not just a Bridgeport issue. On behalf of NAACP Executive Committee I am working on two grievances in regional schools as well as Bridgeport stories.)
    Let’s bring this important issue of vulnerability out in the open so that no one can later say that they had no knowledge of what happens and how we respond relative to what the process indicates. Confidentiality of names of young “participants” can still be maintained but with identification of schools and personnel who are dealing with incidents and situations. Very little learning can occur with the public when complete secrecy is maintained. How did over 70 bullying complaints shrink to 19?? Could that be a learning moment for some? Time will tell.

  2. Bullying statistics have been repeatedly discussed in botj committee and regular meeting. Less than 70 Bullying incidents were recorded last school year. There were 14 schools that did not report a single incident.

    Bullying is defined narrowly under state statute. Only 19 reported bullying incidents were substantiated city wide after they were investigated.

  3. Maria,
    I have and have reviewed the State definition of bullying.
    1) Who, on behalf of BOE, investigated the 70 incidents to determine that only 19 met the standard?
    2) Is that person still with the school system this year? If not, who is in charge of this area and how does the public contact such director?
    3) Were people who reported bullying informed IN WRITING that their complaint did not fit the State definition? Or were they just left in the dark with no response?
    4) Can you identify the 14 schools that did not report any incidents, as well as the schools where the 19 “recognized incidents” occurred?
    5) Does the BOE keep a running record of this?
    You are fact based in your comments regularly. That is what I am seeking at this time. Just the facts. Time will tell.

    1. Under state law, the district and each school has a designated officer which handles allegations of bullying.
      Generally, the principal of each school.is the designee.
      The Director of Social Work, Dee Young, is the designee for the district.
      The report is a public record whichanyone is entitled to.

      In 2016/2017, under Fran Rabinowitz, Director of Social Work Dee Young reported we had ZERO unsubstantiated bullying incidents in an urban school district with over 5,000 high school students and 21,000 students.

      I am not kidding.

  4. John Weldon has repeatedly failed to meet his obligations as Board Chair.

    I have had disagreements with Dr. Johnson, however I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her because she is student centered and does everything in her power to stay out of politics. Dr. Ramos, Paul Vallas, and Fran Rabinowitz wete constantly intwined in politics.

    I can tell you that she is popular with parents. staff, and the community at large.

    John Weldon does exactly what Danny Roach and the Ganim administration tell him to do.

    The Board voted unanimously on a timeline to complete Dr. Johnson’s evaluation. John Weldon repeatedly failed to adhere to it. John Weldon was absolutely contacted by the Ganim administration and was told to ensure Dr. Johnson’s evaluation was not completed until after the Primary. This was to ensure no.potential negativuty around it would hurt his shot at governor.

    We had a set date where every board member was required to bring their completed evaluation with a supportive narrative which included specidic data and examples which supported a rating of 1, 2 or 4 with 4 being examplary
    As Chair, he attended the meeting without a completed evaluation. Not only did he not have completed ratings, he had not yet written a single word. By the way, Dennis Bradley did not even show up.

    I kept track of every rating of each rubric by each member at that meeting. There were 8 categories in total. At this meeting he even chastised Hernan’s ratings of a one and described them as “to harsh”.

    John Weldon refused to honor the evaluation deadlune we unanimously approved because neither he, Jessica nor Dennis had completed their evaluations.

    He sent an email that he unilaterally extended the deadline by 10 days because “some” board members had failed to submit their evaluations. I repeatedly asked which board members had failed to meet their legal responsibilty per state statute. He repeatedly refuaed to answer me, therefore I filed a,FOIA request for every email sent to him with that individuals evaluation attached.

    Hernan Ilingworth turned his evaluation one day late on Auguat 9th, Dennis turned his evaluation 10 days late on Saturday, August 18th, and Jessica still missed the ten day extension and sent hers on Monday, August 20th.

    Those who gave Dr. Johnson the worst evaluations were John Weldon, Hernan Illingsworth, Dennis Bradley and Jessica Martinez. Combined, they gave her 13 ones and twos with ten of those ratings being unsupported by a single data point or specific example.

    Even.more disturbing was that when John Weldon submitted his completed evaluation, he had xhanged five of his eight ratings from our initial meeting in which he lowered his initial rating in four separate categories and increased his rating in one. In the end, although John Weldon had no one ratings at our initial meeting, he ultimately gave Dr. Johnson two ratings of one after chastising Hernan Ilkingworth for giving Dr. Johnson several one ratings.

    This was a purposeful attempt to reduce Dr. Johnson’s overall rating from over a 3 to 2.98.

  5. Every board member was to meet with Dr. Johnson one-on-one so that we could finalize her goals and objectives by October 15th.

    Dr. Johnson repeatedly reached out to both Jessica Martinez and Dennis Bradley regarding that meeting. Neither were responsive.

    We missed the October 15th deadline because John Weldon was trying to accomadate them instead of the superintendent. Over 45 days had passed and these two board members had not met with the superintendent. Jessica Martinez uktimately met with Dr. Johnson, however as of Friday,,Dennis Bradley had not responded to Dr. Johnson’s repeated requests for a meeting.

    We are now in the 5th month of the 2018/2019 school year and Dr. Johnson has still not received her formal Goals & Objectives for this school year.

    What great lesdership.on John Weldon’s part.

  6. Maria,
    Do you have time and the facts to address the questions I asked about bullying procedures in our school system? If the info is incomplete for you, to whom would I turn? Time will tell.

  7. Sorry for the typos. I re-injured my back and am laying down typing on my cellphone.

    All my life I have heard the saying that if you don’t have your health nothing else really matters. It really never resonated with me until I injured my back.

    All I ever got from helping elect Ganim as Mayor was a herniated L5 disc. After major surgery in November and another minor surgery in March, I was experiencing a significant level of improvement over the Summer. However, I am currently experiencing a painful setback.

    Having your health is so much more important than having “stuff”. You can’t enjoy material things if you are not healthy.

    Stay healthy everyone!

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