Acting No More: School Board In Stealth Meeting Taps Testani Permanent School Chief


The Board of Education Monday night voted surreptitiously to hire Michael Testani superintendent of schools for three years starting July 1. He has been serving in an acting capacity since the departure of Aresta Johnson last summer. The vote was 7-2.

Testani’s currently receiving $200,000 a year. He’ll be bumped to $244,000, a similar amount to what Johnson had earned.

Testani’s acting status was expected to last one year after the school board announced a national search to select a longer-term leader. They reversed that decision.

Board Chair Jessica Martinez, wearing a State Senator Dennis Bradley t-shirt, wrote on her Facebook page “raw and uncut.”

Good morning! This is for the people, my people!

Superintendent Michael Testani, is doing an incredible job and he is the right man for the job as I knew when he was first chosen.

Instead of being negative. Instead of speculating. Instead of creating your own narratives. Instead of dividing a wounded community. Pray for your Board of Education, pray for all your elected officials and stand up to be counted for.

BOE Chair Jessica Martinez

As word spread, the social media reaction to Testani’s appointment came quickly Monday night.

Former board member Kate Rivera on Facebook:

The fix was ALWAYS in. Just a reminder: the Board passed over a Harvard-educated Black man with his certification and years of experience for a white guy with NO experience, no certification and no Harvard. The Board LIED to the public saying that he could never be hired permanently. Why wasn’t the contract honored? (Again I have nothing against Mike personally.) This process & the back-room dealing w/o public input though is absolutely disgusting.

In one of her final acts last year as Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Dianna Wentzell approved the board’s appointment of Testani to serve as acting school chief commencing August 1, 2019. He had been director of Adult Education. Her approval was necessary because Testani did not possess superintendent of schools certification, something he has been pursuing while serving in an acting capacity.

The ambiguous agenda posted Jan. 3 on the Board of Education website (see above) did not specify consideration of a three-year contract for Testani.

A May 2019 job posting, highlighted in bold, was unambiguous about the duration of the acting superintendent:

The individual selected as Interim Superintendent will be precluded from applying for the position on a permanent basis. As such, the Board will entertain a contractual provision returning any current BPS employee to their prior position at the end of this assignment, if they are selected as the Interim Superintendent.

Former board member Maria Pereira who opposed Testani’s hiring had predicted a movement by the board to approve his longer-term status. Testani is well regarded by the city’s political establishment, including Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa.

Board members Joe Sokolovic and Bobbi Brown voted against the three-year contract for Testani.

Board member Chris Taylor who’s experienced residency issues of his own said he could not vote for Testani unless a residency provision was placed into the contract. Testani, a Fairfield resident, agreed to move into the city within a year.

See video of meeting above from Sokolovic Facebook page.

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32 comments

  1. This should have been stated before going into Executive Session. It would probably be called an illegal use of executive session if challenged to the FOI Commission but the damage is already done.

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  2. As most recall, I publicly stated the fix was in from Testani the minute the job description for the Acting Superintendent was drafted.

    Weldon, Illingworth and Martinez did everything to lower the standards. The Acting Superintendent was not encouraged to have a doctorate or possess a Superintendent Certificate.

    Illingworth pushed the requirement that whomever was appointed as Acting could not serve as the Permanent Superintendent. However, he supported the same provision for Fran Rabinowitz and then voted twice to cancel the Superintendent search allowing Fran Rabinowitz to serve as,Acting for 2 1/2 years.

    Mike Testani’s current contract states that he cannot apply to be the Permanent Superintendent.

    Mike Testani does NOT have the required certification to serve as a Permanent Superintendent.

    Mike Testani has never served as a classroom teacher, principal, assistant superintendent or Superintendent in his entire life.

    He is a Social Worker who knows nothing about curriculum, instruction or pedagogy which is the most important qualification needed in a superintendent. A Superintendent must be an instructional leader.

    The agenda noticed to the public in no way apprised the public that Mike Testani was being appointed Permanent Superintendent. The ridiculous agenda posted was meant to purposefully mislead the public.

    The Board is holding their Regular Meeting on Monday, therefore they could have done this then allowing the public to speak during Public Comment.

    A Special Meeting was called on the same night as the City Council Meeting, and held at Aquaculture School, not Room 305, to discourage the public from attending.

    Joe Sokolovic shared with me that he did not know the intention was to appoint Mike Testani as Permanent Superintebdent until he arrived.

    Each board member received a single sheet of paper with only four evaluation criteria with a rating system. Members were not required to substantiate their ratings with any commentary. Chris Taylor did not even complete his evaluation. For the record, a McDonald’s employee would receive a more comprehensive evaluation than Mike Testani did as the Acting Superintendent responsible for educating 20,000 urban school students earning $200,000.

    I asked Joe Sokolovic what Mike Testani’s new salary woukd be and he said he has absolutely no idea.

    I honestly believe the appointment of Mike Testani as Permanent Superintendent and the approval of a 3 year contract last night was unlawful.

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    1. I told my husband when Testani was first appointed as acting superintendent that the fix was in and that Testani would be Superintendent.

      If Testani does not need the proper credentials to be superintendent, what does that say to the hundreds of teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, social workers and paraprofessionals (and others) that *must* possess the proper educational credentials and state issued certifications to be employed as employees of the Bridgeport Board of Ed??
      the only teachers I know who are allowed to teach without the proper certification are those who are teaching with DSAPs – a Durational Shortage Area Permit because a state-wide teacher shortage exists in that certification area. Shortage areas include Special Education. Bridgeport is only one of the districts that routinely hires teachers with DSAPs. Suburban districts rarely do. Why? Because once teachers with DSAPs have the proper certification leave the district to teach elsewhere.

      How can Bridgeport keeps good certified staff if the superintendent does not have the proper credentials for the job?

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  3. I keep reading this 200k figure. I’ve heard no figure. Listen to the exact motion made by Mr. Weldon. ….same contract as Dr. Johnson… two exceptions. Not one mention was made of a salary different from that of Dr. Johnson. The way this was rushed through without public comment, thoughtful debate and no mention of salary reflects poorly upon us as a board, It may very well be in violation of the FOIA. I’ve said time and again when this board rushes it makes mistakes.

    That being said I will work alongside Mr. Testani and pray for his success as his performance is directly related to the success of our children.

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    1. Mike Testani received an increase of approximately $35,000 to become Acting Superintendent.

      Linda Lambeck just confirmed he is now receiving an additional $44,000 increase as the Superintendent.

      Mike Testani will earn $244,000 as the most unqualified Acting/Permanent Superintendent of the BPS in the last 40 years.

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  4. The craziness of this move is further amplified when Chris Taylor is the one demanding that Mike Testani must reside in Bridgeport to serve as the Superintendent of the Bridgeport Public Schools.

    In fact, it is batshit crazy.

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  5. He didn’t apply for the position, he was unilaterally appointed by the board of director’s. Will he be pursuing his superintendent certification on work time?

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    1. That is semantics and I doubt any judge would support that position.

      His current contract states he is precluded from applying to be the Superintendent. If you are precluded from even applying how can you be unilaterally appointed.

      Don’t think for one minute that John Fabrizi, Mario Testa and Joe Ganim didn’t orchestrate this. Not for one minute.

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  6. The next regular meeting on the Board of Education is this Monday, January 13th at 6:30 p.m. likely being held at Aquaculture School. I would recommend signing up by 6:15 p.m. if you would like to speak upto two minutes.

    I must say I am impressed with the flurry on social media. This is all over facebbook and I have only seen one supportive comment about Mike Testani.

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  7. Ganim’s Gambit
    (in chess) an opening in which a player makes a sacrifice, typically of a pawn, for the sake of some compensating advantage.
    Give someone a G-Note, to set the trap and Surprise! Surprise!

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  8. And once again the children of Bridgeport suffer.
    It’s back to the good old days and the good old ways. Raiding the BOE funds under the auspices of the city doing the work for the BOE. No accountability. All in the name of doing what’s best for the kids.

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  9. Take a look at the CT Post. Trumbull’s Superintendent of Schools is taking a leave of absence. The former Superintendent is acting. Both would be clearly more qualified then what Bridgeport has settled on.
    But you know what they say Only In Bridgeport.

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  10. I worked closely with this man while I was on the Board of Education. He is untrustworthy. He was never prepared for a meeting. He would literally make things up as he went. He was two-faced and played both sides. He is untruthful. One could never trust the information provided by him. His only qualification for this job is that he will do what ever Ganim wants; patronage jobs, no-bid contracts, dismantling inroads made in special education compliance, and on.

    He will promote his cronies over those more qualified. He will gut services to our most vulnerable students. Combining him as Superintendent with Martinez as chair will pave the way for more charter schools. There is not one positive to be found in this hiring from an educational or student oriented perspective. God help our children.

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  11. I am sharing the following email I just received from Jessica Martinez. A pathetic lie. Good evening Joe,

    It was brought to my knowledge that you provided Maria Pereira with information that transpired in executive session, you have violated policy and possibly state law.

    I know you are extremely passionate about information being publicly disseminated, however, you are fully aware that what happens in executive session stays in executive session.

    Please feel free to contact me for further discussion if need be. Also, I will keep you posted if there are any legal ramifications because of your act.

    Thank you,

    Jessica Martinez

    If these libelous statements continue I will sue for slander.

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    1. I think it is pretty clear that Jessica Martinez” frequent issue with significant Camel Toe is a contributing factor regarding her complete inability to make statements based on facts, policies and state laws that actually exist and support her baseless assertions.

      Stop trying to stuff 10 pounds of sausage into a 5 pound casing.

      I am far from svelte, however plus size women can still dress appropriately with properly fitted attire without looking like a floozy.

      Has she ever heard of the saying :”wear clothes tight enough to show you are a woman, and loose enough to show you are a lady.”

      Geeez.

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  12. Did any of the Board of Ed members feel it was necessary to uphold the original agreement that was voted on? I watch the meeting on TV and my understanding was that their would be a search for qualified individual who had all the credentials? .

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  13. Joe,
    Pay no attention to Jessica.
    When I was on the council at one time I called the FOI and asked if I could share information that I learned in executive session. The man said I was under no legal requirement not to but asked why would I want to. I told him this is Bridgeport and I don’t believe anything I hear in Executive Session.

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    1. Thanks I’m not worried about legal ramifications. It’s obvious (to anyone with half a brain) that the law has no teeth. What concerns me is:
      1. People believing her lies
      2. Her relying on someone told her something and jumping to conclusions without the courtesy of a phone call.
      3. Being used as part of a deflection campaign to distract from the sneaky maneuvering of the board.

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  14. Strange comments and strange dialogue concerning a legally-precluded action by a rudderless-ship of a Bridgeport BOE… The script for this “special meeting” and its legally-precluded action could have been written by Kim Jong Un (or Donald Trump). Incredibly clumsy… (Indeed, stupid (!)…) This was an ill-conceived meeting/agenda/action embellished with contraindicated legal threats to free speech on a background of an appeal to “the people” “MY people” (who might they be?!) to ignore any discussion critical of the action by the Keystone-Cop-like BOE and its Kim Jong Un-like leader at an ill-conceived meeting with a clearly illegal agenda…

    Appalling! Another nail in Bridgeport’s coffin…

    This can only lead to another state-takeover of the Bridgeport school system, with the installation of another state-selected BOE and clueless, despotic, Bridgeport-ignorant, Lamont-selected replacement superintendent… (Maybe Malloy II will bring back Paul Vallas…)

    This abortion of an administrative coup will result in the up-ending of the political ambitions of any and all people that facilitated/cooperated with this meeting agenda (or are even “guilty” of just implicit, tacit approval) . There certainly couldn’t have been a competent lawyer’s advice involved in the decision to hold this meeting and execute its illegal agenda… This was Bridgeport-stupid breaking all previous records…

    Great way to start the New Year for Cirque de Bridgeport!

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