Apply Here: The Politics Of Navigating The Board of Education

The Board of Education’s in search of a good man or woman to lead schools for a projected one year ahead of a longer-term chief which has become relative considering how little they last in Connecticut’s largest school district.

Superintendent of Schools Aresta Johnson who had difficulty navigating the disparate personalities on the Board of Education is exiting at the end of July. She’s been in charge since December 2016.

April, 2019 file image: School board member Maria Pereira, sitting in an empty City Council chambers, addresses budget committee urging more dollars for education.

Her interim predecessor Fran Rabinowitz also resigned because of the politics of the school board citing member Maria Pereira’s “negative crusade to undermine and discredit much of what we have built for children in this school district.”

It’s hard to fathom one member who lacks board control has such power but that’s the hurricane-force persona of a determined Pereira who votes in a minority bloc. Pereira, who has not announced if she’ll run for another four-year term this year, had called for Johnson’s resignation in March asserting she capitulated to the political establishment. Soon, Johnson resigned. Was it Pereira’s influence or something else at play?

Johnson, a popular educator in the district, has not specified the reason for her departure, making clear, however, it was not because of the district’s cash-strapped budget.

Pereira, in late March, wrote this in the OIB comments section:

I was just informed by CT Post reporter, Linda Lambeck, that John Weldon sent her an email at 3:30 PM informing her that Monday’s regular meeting was being canceled.

I am an elected school board member and Dr. Johnson’s staff did not send us notice of the cancellation until 4:32 PM on a late Friday afternoon.

Dr. Johnson and her staff are 100% involved in this treacherous, deceitful and unethical behavior.

Dr. Johnson has completely capitulated to the corrupt Democratic Machine. She is 100% in Mayor Ganim’s, Mario Testa’s, and King John Weldon’s back pocket.

She has turned her back on our 20,400 students, our 30,000 parents, and 2,700 staff members.

For the reasons identified above, she must submit her resignation. She must go.

Johnson obliged. So now the district, courtesy of the process BOE Chair John Weldon provided below, is in search of an interim leader to serve one year in advance of, well, a “permanent” leader. As noted below “The individual selected as Interim Superintendent will be precluded from applying for the position on a permanent basis.”

One of those who says he’s likely to apply short term is Michael Testani who leads Adult Education. Testani, born and raised in Bridgeport, tells OIB “I would love the opportunity to serve during this critical time. I can hit the ground running … I owe it to the kids.”

Dealing with the school board is another matter.

JOB POSTING

INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS – BRIDGEPORT, CT

General: Bridgeport Public Schools (BPS) in Bridgeport, CT is seeking an Interim Superintendent to lead the District from mid-June 2019 to the time a permanent Superintendent is retained and takes office (anticipated to be occur or about July 1, 2020). The selected individual would oversee the operation of Bridgeport Public Schools while the Bridgeport Board of Education retains a search firm to hire a permanent Superintendent of Schools.

Qualifications: Applicants must, at minimum, hold a Master’s Degree from an accredited institution and have at least 5 years of experience working in an administrative capacity within an urban public school system. A Connecticut Superintendent of Schools Administrative Endorsement (a/k/a 093 Certification) is preferred. Candidates not holding an 093 Certification will be considered, but are advised to review Sec. 10-157 of the Connecticut General Statutes to be aware of legal requirements if a party not holding an 093 Certification is appointed.

Expectations: It is anticipated this assignment will run from June 15, 2019 to June 30, 2020, although a brief extension may be sought to allow the Interim Superintendent to properly assist in onboarding the permanent Superintendent when contracted. 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.

A copy of the Job Description for the position may be found by clicking the following link:

https://www.bridgeportedu.net//cms/lib/CT02210097/Centricity/Domain/3428/Supt_Job_Desc_05_2019.pdf

Candidate Communication Outside of the Search Process: Candidates are cautioned that contact with Board Members, or staff performing administrative functions related to this search, which are outside of the established application process, or that are ex parte in nature, may disqualify such candidates from further consideration.

How to Apply: Interested parties should submit a resume with cover letter, as well as a copy of their current certification(s), via e-mail to:

SearchCommittee@bridgeportedu.net

Deadline: The deadline for submission is 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 30, 2019. The Search Committee will meet in closed session on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 to determine finalist candidates who will be invited for an interview. Individual candidacy for this assignment will be kept confidential until an interview is offered, at which time finalists will be publicly announced. Finalist candidates will be interviewed on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 commencing 6:00 p.m. Such interviews will not be held in public, though candidates may require their interview to be held in public pursuant to Section 1-200(6) of the Connecticut General Statutes.

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8 comments

  1. Mike Testani has never even served as a principal. He also does not have a Superintendent Certification.

    Here is what he does have:

    1) he is Mayor Fabrizi’s cousin and a loyalist. The same Mayor Fabrizi that was caught by state Department of Education consults “stealing” and “illegally” removing or charging unallowable costs to the BOE totalling $13,000,000.

    2) he was an assistant principal at Wibur Cross who thought it appropriate to create a fake news article about a killing shortly after a students father was murdered and posted it on his office door. He was reprimanded and transferred out of Wilbur Cross.

    3) I strongly believe both Fabrizi and Testani were behind Vallas demoting Aresta Johnson as the CHS Principal before she resigned and returned to Waterbury.

    4) he ended up reporting to Fabrizi in Adult Education. He was involved in a scandal where Bassick students were being allowed to graduate from a credit recovery program although they had not earned the required credits to graduate. Rabinowitz investigated and had to meet with Bassick parents two days before graduation to inform them their children would not be allowed to graduate. The Bassick Principal was removed. Fabrizi retired and worked back channels to get Testani as his replacement. Rabinowitz appointed him as the Director of Adult Ed. on a probationary basis before he was eventually made the permanent Adult Ed. Director.

    5) he was involved in a meeting as the Vice-President of the Bridgeport Council of Adminstrative Supervisors with Dennis Bradley and Joe Larcheveque. Ben Walker was invited on the pretense that Rabinowitz and the BCAS Excecutive Board wanted to meet with the BOE officers in Rabinowitz’ office. The entire meeting was a ruse. Testani aggressively argued and urged Ben Walker to betray me and join the majority in publicly opposing me. He put on a good show for Rabinowitz.

    6) he portrayed himself as a Rabinowitz loyalist, however he repeatedly contacted me to complain and disparage her.

    7) his betrayal of Rabinowitz was exposed at a public meeting and Rabinowitz contemplated firing him. Both Rabinowitz and others called Testani a “double agent” and “Benedict Arnold.”

    8) his betrayal caused Rabinowitz to tell Aresta Johnson that she should not trust him and to make sure he was not part of her Cabinet. Dr. Johnson did not allow him to serve in her Cabinet.

    Testani has been going to Testo’s Pizza Restaurant 3-5 weekday nights for two months. Fabrizi has been lobbying on his behalf. He has met with Ganim’s Chief of Staff Dan Shamus and Mario Testa to get their backing.

    Although interim candidates have until May 30, 2019 to submit their resumes, and we have yet to receive a single resume, I was told by a very reliable source that John Weldon, Hernan Illingworth, Sybil Allen, Joseph Lombard and Chris Taylor have already committed to vote for Testani BEFORE a single candidate has been interviewed. This individual was not sure about Jessica Martinez.

    I have no idea who I will be voting for but I do know I will NOT be voting for Mike Testani under any circumstance.

  2. I just attended a Teaching and Learning Committee that used to be Chaired by Ben Walker but is now Chaired by Joseph Sokolovic.

    Ben’s committee was the one committee where the vast majority of policies, initiatives and programs that directly impacted students, parents and staff came to fruition. Since he resigned, not a single policy, program and initiative has come out of this committee with Sokolovic as Chair.

    When Ben was still on the Board I referred an initiative I read about called Reverse Suspension where when a student received a suspension, parents were given the option to shadow their child in school for an entire day and in turn the child would have one day of their suspension shaved off.

    This school saw a significant reduction in suspensions, behavioral incidents, increased attendance rates and a slight improvement in academic performance.

    No child, especially a pre-teen or teen wants their parent to shadow them at school because it is so uncool.

    There are no costs associated with implementing this initiative. I wanted to test it in our smallest high school this Fall and a small elementary school with seasoned administrators to work out any issues BEFORE rolling it out District wide

    Although Chair Sokolovic, Lombard and Kennedy have NOT offered any initiative to reduce behavioral and suspension issues nor any alternative to my recommendation they are attempting to table my proposal.

    They tried to get Testani to offer alternatives. After the meeting I asked Testani who was at the meeting he attended, He admitted not a single parent was in his cohort and only one teacher. Everyone else was administrators and central office staff. I asked Testani what were these alternatives he had recommended as I had stepped out of the room. Testani told me he had not prepared any alternatives because no one had asked him to. The only suggestion would be Saturday suspensions which would cost us custodial OT, utilities, possibly bus transportation, teaching staff likely requiring security OT.

    I don’t know if Sokolovic, Lombard, and Kennedy understand that we need to CUT $10.5 million not ADD expenses.

    I love when those who have absolutely NO ideas try to stifle those that actually do have cost negligible solutions to real problems facing our students, parents and staff.

  3. Maria, although I appreciate you tenacity,this is Bpt, it doesn’t matter who the board interviews,what factions of individuals want one candidate or another. Mario & Joe will let you all go through the motions, but in the end, they already have picked their superintendent.You do realize that by now, don’t you?.. This is how it’s done in Bpt.

  4. Well Maria, if you’re so determined to have it your way (as if this is Burger King or something) why don’t you just tell everyone who you would like as Superintendent of Schools. That would certainly simplify matters, don’t you think?

  5. Derek, I cannot possibly provide that information given that I have not received a single resume of the applicants. Interested candidates have until May 30, 2019 to apply.

  6. Neither Rabinowitz’s nor Johnson’s resignations can be attributed to Ms. Pereira. Ms. Rabinowitz was looking for an excuse to get out of the mess she and Chairman Bradley had created. Once Bradley’s boycott ended, she saw no future in Bridgeport and used Ms. Pereira’s tenacity as her exit strategy! Ms. Johnson’s resignation falls directly at the feet of the heavy-handedness of Chairman Weldon. His myopic view of funding and his dictatorial, Mussolini-like administration of the board opened the door for her to escape to greener pastures.

  7. There are so many over paid idiots working here. The amount of stuff that goes unnoticed is unreal. Things even Maria Pereiar doesn’t even know about, things that get scooped under the rug as far as state and federal laws pertaining to the students. There really does need to be a full sweep of all Central Office supervisors and directors!

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