Baraka On Sandra’s Kase, Wants Her Gagged For Speaking Out Against Principal That Dragged Children

Board of Education President Sauda Baraka wants Sandra Kase’s head after the school district’s chief administrative officer dared to reiterate what was already known, administrative leadership recommended the termination of Tisdale school principal Carmen Perez Dickson caught on film dragging kindergarten children down the hallway last year that triggered protests from parents when the school board ordered a six-month suspension. News 12 on Friday released the footage that was provided by an unhappy parent. Kase, in response to media requests, called the incident “shocking.”

Last year the school board by a 4-3 vote, including current members Baraka, John Bagley and Jacqueline Kelleher, approved suspension over termination recommended by outgoing Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas who came to Kase’s defense in blistering letter exchanges with Baraka who freely castigated school board decisions when she was in the minority, but clearly bristles at the slightest criticism as school board chief, including the release of the tape, as a member of Working Family’s Party controlling coalition. In fact, in a commentary published by OIB last October Baraka writes, “I believe I have demonstrated the ability to speak out, and not be cowed into silence by the “go along, get along” mentality that has proven to be a blueprint for failure.” Well, she wants to silence Kase for speaking out.

Baraka, in a letter to Vallas, accused Kase of violating school board policy speaking to the media. Vallas in response to Baraka writes that Kase did not violate policy.

The Connecticut Department of Children and Family Services advised BPS that the affected families are entitled to the tapes, and it is apparent that my staff simply complied with this directive. Thus, as I stated on the telephone this morning, I refuse to conduct a witch hunt for the particular person who merely fulfilled a directive from a state agency, simply because some on the Board are now uncomfortable with the media attention they are receiving as a result of what it was warned would be at the very least a controversial decision, if not a highly unpopular course of action.

Following a freedom of information request from OIB, Vallas released letters he received from Baraka and his response. School board members were copied on these letters as well as incoming interim school chief Fran Rabinowitz who begins work next week. The first letter below was sent by Baraka to Vallas on Sunday.

Dear Mr. Vallas:

I have received numerous telephone calls regarding remarks made by Dr. Sandra Kase at a press conference held on, Friday, February 21, 2014. The press conference, which aired on several news stations and was widely reported, concerned Carmen Perez Dickson.

As you know, the BBOE made a decision after holding a hearing concerning the status of Principal Dickson.

Prior to the press conference on Friday, February 21, you and I had several conversations. In none of those conversations, did you disclose any information concerning a planned press conference.

This leads me to conclude that either you knew nothing about Dr. Kase’s plans to address the media concerning a decision made by the BBOE after an exhaustive hearing, or you deliberately chose to withhold that information from the Chairman of the Board of Education.

As you are well aware, this press conference violates BOE policy 9020.

In both of the conversations that you and I had, and in an email sent to you and to all members of the Board, I explained that we had been advised by legal counsel to make no comment on the case.

This was due to the fact that litigation is ongoing, and any comments might jeopardize the process and expose the Board to legal liability.

Imagine my shock and surprise when Dr. Kase not only commented on the Board’s decision, but chose to make negative comments concerning that decision and the sanctions imposed by the Board.

The conduct of Dr. Kase raises several questions, which I believe must be answered immediately.

First, did you designate and authorize Dr. Kase as your representative to address the press in this matter? Regardless of her personal opinion, she is an employee of the BBOE and is therefore required to comply with Board policy 9020.

Second, according to channel 12 news the parent who distributed the tape, reported that she requested, and received the tape, from the BBOE in November 2013.

Please inform me of the name and position of the BBOE employee, consultant, attorney or agent, who released that tape on behalf of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

The Board had no knowledge that the tape had been released, and presumably neither did our attorneys. The record in this matter will reflect that the BBOE was advised by our attorneys to review the tape in executive session. Had our attorneys known that the tapes had already been publically disseminated, there would have been no legal basis for an executive session.

In 2013, the BBOE held the Carmen Perez-Dickson hearing in public, at the request of Mrs. Perez-Dickson. We expected the public hearing would be public. Only after our attorneys advised us that the videos disclosed the images of two children and that public viewing would violate confidentiality laws, did the board view the tape in executive session.

Had we known that our school district had already released the tapes to the parents, we would have no reason to take that action.

The members of the BBOE who heard this case worked in good faith and diligently for nearly six months. We painstakingly listened to testimony, viewed the video and read and re-read transcripts. We did all this in an effort to craft a decision which would be based on facts, not on emotion, fiction, or character assassination.

To have that decision criticized and undermined by a staff member, in violation of our board policy, while litigation is pending, is inexcusable.

I expect that you will immediately inform Dr. Kase that she is to make no further comments on this matter to anyone, particularly members of the press. That she chose to make these comments at a staged press conference is inexcusable and requires immediate action on your part.

Please be available to discuss this matter tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM.


Sauda Efia Baraka, Chair

Bridgeport Board of Education

Letter response from Vallas to Baraka on Monday:

Ms. Baraka,

You failed to appear for this morning’s 10:00 a.m. meeting in my office, which you demanded of me in your correspondence dated February 23, 2014, with all Board members cc’d. You have not only failed to provide me with an explanation for your absence at the meeting you requested and for which I cleared my schedule, you now deliberately mischaracterize the phone conversation which you initiated in the alternative. Just as I refused to be drawn by you into an ongoing argument over the telephone, I now refuse to dignify your self-serving and erroneous claims regarding said conversation. However, I am more than willing to set the record straight on the overarching issues you raise.

As a threshold issue, I am not surprised at your displeasure with the extensive and arguably negative media coverage that has resulted from the board’s misguided decision of October 30, 2013, with regard to the continued BPS employment of Carmen Perez Dickson. The experienced and skilled administrators of this district who are charged with the responsibility of running the Bridgeport Public Schools on a day-to-day basis, and with whom the ultimate responsibility for our children’s safety lies, made numerous strong recommendations to the Board that Ms. Dickson’s employment be terminated. These recommendations were made based on years of experience in school operations, after a review of the tapes in which children were inappropriately touched, with consideration of the employment history of Ms. Dickson, and mindful of the potential for litigation from various directions. That said, with regard to our recommendation and our still unwavering opinion with respect to that recommendation, the safety of our children and comfort level of our parents were our primary guiding principles. These principles always guide this administration, and this case was no different. May I remind you that even the President of the Bridgeport Education Association expressed disappointment with the Board’s narrow decision to retain Ms. Dickson. If you need to refresh your memory, please see his statement to the Connecticut Post on November 7, 2013.

However, and against all advice to the contrary, the Board’s decision is now one that it must live with. It does not matter in the least who physically released the tapes to the parents of the children touched by Ms. Dickson. The Connecticut Department of Children and Family Services advised BPS that the affected families are entitled to the tapes, and it is apparent that my staff simply complied with this directive. Thus, as I stated on the telephone this morning, I refuse to conduct a witch hunt for the particular person who merely fulfilled a directive from a state agency, simply because some on the Board are now uncomfortable with the media attention they are receiving as a result of what it was warned would be at the very least a controversial decision, if not a highly unpopular course of action. This is my stated position and I will not deviate from my stance. I did state to you that if the incoming interim superintendent prefers to address this differently in the weeks or months to come, I obviously would have no control over that. This is in no way any dereliction of my duties or disregard for any policy.

Further, please make a note for the record that although I personally, and we at the Central office collectively, disagreed with the Board’s vote in this case, there have been no media comments after our initial reaction under questioning to the Board’s vote in October, 2013. The Board’s decision has been respected. If the parents in now possession of the tapes, as of November 2013, as is their apparent right, choose to release them to the media, or to use them in litigation, or for any other purpose, that is out of our control.

With regard to your expressed “outrage” with Dr. Kase, a press conference is defined as “a pre-arranged interview with the media, designed to elicit publicity.” Press conferences are scheduled in advance, generally preceded by an alert or invitation to the media, and commonly accompanied by a written press release, so that any media unable to personally attend the event may have access to the information. BPS did not engage in any of these activities. Rather, my staff was also taken by surprise when the parents released the tapes and the media bombardment ensued. Rather than spend her taxpayer compensated time doing one media interview after another, in lieu of tending to her district responsibilities, Dr. Kase merely collectively addressed the media gathered in our offices. I support this decision and additionally note that nothing was said in her remarks that were out of line with the opinions previously expressed by this office, or even by the BEA, with regard to the Board’s action concerning Ms. Dickson. In fact, the bulk of the questions and response concerned matters are easily available in the public record.

As exhibited by my professional execution of the rescue of a district in crisis over these past two years, including the recent finalization of a fully funded three year collective bargaining agreement without school closings or mass layoffs, it is indisputable that I have every regard for my duties and responsibilities as superintendent. That includes these final days of my tenure. However, engaging in a shouting match over the phone, rather than what should have been a civil face-to-face meeting in my office to strategize what is best for the students and families of this district, is not among them. There was simply no point in continuing a highly unproductive conversation, given your tone.

In my opinion, unless the Board desires to revisit the underlying decision that is the topic of this controversy, which we would support, there is nothing more to discuss with regard to this matter.


Paul G. Vallas

Superintendent, Bridgeport Public Schools



  1. I was astonished this principal was not fired and sadly, it seems to me race was the major consideration on the part of the Board. Now because there is outrage after the public’s seeing the tape, BOE President looks to be playing yet another egotistical CYA.

    If departing Supt Vallas had spent less time pontificating over his greatness and instead plainly and clearly addressed ridiculous BOE behavior, both he and BPS would have been better off.

    Lookng at the character of some BOE members, nothing has changed.

    1. *** Denis OMalley *** How many blacks on the BOE to make a difference and why does skin color of a 30 years of service school administrator have anything to do with the BOE’s decision not to fire her? Do you think a white woman with the same issues would have been fired by this BOE and why? Also, the videotape CT Post and OIB readers and bloggers, etc. are seeing is the “same tape” the BOE saw back when they made their final decision! Only difference was the BOE was not as bombarded by outside-the-box opinionated “hang them high” after-the-facts public complaints and opinions on the matter. Therefore looked at the issues and handmade a tough decision that right or wrong cannot change the final outcome of this case as time will tell. ***

      1. Mojo, racism goes both ways. If she were white with the same board, she would have been fired in a New York minute. Vallas’ comments speak of objectivity and show Baraka’s true agenda.

  2. Keeping personalities out of this, If I were Sauda Baraka I’d get an attorney. I just saw the video. If I were the mother I’d have a case against the board and there is no way the court would not award me. This is no different from the Church looking the other way in a scandal. I think Sauda Baraka had better cover her ass, though it is too late. Going after Dr. Kase looks real bad. Real real bad. Who voted for Sauda Baraka?

  3. *** Regardless of the BOE’s decision weather to fire Ms. Dickson or not, should the parents wish to pursue this issue further legally in a courtroom, makes no difference! The BOE rendered a decision, and like it or not it’s a done deal. They could have fired her and there still would be a chance of a possible lawsuit by the parents to follow. ***

    1. So is that what you think the parents are willing to accept? I am so thankful I don’t have children in Bridgeport schools. There must be a solution to remedy this mess somehow, some way.

  4. There is no surprise here in Baraka’s behavior and the behavior of other leaders of the WFP. They are bullies and do not want to listen to anyone else’s input or criticism. I have experienced that venom first-hand. See earlier posts.

  5. I am in awe! This board is making the last and one before that look brilliant. You have puppeteers, puppets and dictators. They want to silence the community and as parents are instructed to listen to a PAC that is on the WFP payroll. Wow! Enough is enough. Bravo to Vallas. His response is exactly why I saw change coming. I guess WFP got to him.

  6. Baraka and Bagley speak but Pereira’s voice comes out. WFP puts up money to get them elected and then throws it into the elected ones’ facees how much they donated and this is what you will do.
    It’s their way or the highway, which is why Pereira has no friends in Bpt politics, and any friend she had is now a non-friend.

    1. Pereira, in absentia, is the puppet master of these two members. I’ve said it all along, you have to watch out what you wish for; change isn’t always for the better. Now what’s the solution to eliminating them since there is no system for recall? Is a State takeover the only recourse? The WFP promised a positive change in the educational system, but the fact is, they lied to the electorate just to get their votes. Now what?

      1. Personally, I never lied to anyone I asked to vote for me. My platform was always about the parents and getting them involved. Admittedly, my current work schedule precludes me from attending as many BOE meetings as I would like, but had I won, it would have been obvious I am not anyone’s puppet. The idea of a state takeover is very premature. There are a series of steps that would have to take place. Including the Board determining they cannot work together, the state providing training, the Board giving it another go, etc. I am hoping with the change in the administration happening soon, the Board and the central office will be less adversarial.

  7. It is clear Sauda Baraka and her handlers have no tolerance for discussion, debate or dissent. The law, the schools, and most of all, the kids all take a back seat to their petty, childish games. Enough already.

  8. *** Problem is everyone on the BOE wants to be a “lone*star” instead of team players just satisfied with making positive changes and winning one for the kids! *** TEAM SPIRIT ***

      1. I am the last one to defend Rev. Moales’ behavior, which is often over the line and deserving of criticism.

        But there is something almost comical about Sauda Baraka–herself a champion meeting disruptor–objecting to the kind of behavior she engaged in when she was in the minority.

        The vote to censure Moales–taken without notice and in his absence–trampled due process, the First Amendment and the state’s Freedom of Information law. It speaks volumes, none of it good, about the board members who supported it.

        The Bridgeport Public schools face real problems and need real leaders who are focused on Bridgeport’s children and not their own power games. So far, they are getting none of that from a majority of members of this Board of Education.

        The city and its kids deserve better.

        1. Last evening Reverend Moales commented on John Bagley’s running of the scheduled Facilities meeting. There was an agenda with four or five items listed and there was no announcement of a hearing.
          Bagley’s explanation of his action in deferring to Judge Lopez and allowing her 17 minutes to make her comments on the subject of the Harding project was a send-up to his power as Chair to have a meeting any way he wanted practically speaking, though he did say he wanted to allow the public to speak on the subject. Of course the public he called on was “his public” with whom planning had occurred rather than an alternative public who might have equal claim to sharing their opinion.

          However, what Chair Bagley did to Committee process was to show some people can get more than two minutes to share their opinion, and in his opinion the Committee meetings are for the Chairs to do as they wish.

          The BOE needs to set out some rules to which they can agree and communicate them with the audience. I have attempted to speak to the Harding issue at the School Building Committee and was denied that opportunity by the Chair of that committee because he was applying the rules he understands from the City Council rather than Robert’s Rules that govern the SBC. Patience for time to learn on all parties. There is a strong surge of wanting to be heard by many people in Bridgeport. Various administrations have not listened before exercising power. There is a premium to be paid for this behavior. In the meantime lots of people are absorbing the lessons of each statement and experience … Sikorsky Airport–$450,000 and counting … Charter recommendations–“Accountable” … Solar at Seaside is a “done deal” … It’s all about the kids … What is it really about, all of you in power? Time will tell.

      2. No, Baraka never treated him with the same disrespect and never called him racist names like “Tonto!” You may disagree with her policy positions, but she was never the bully he is.

        1. Rob Traber,
          I am not sure to whom you were responding with this comment. As you can appreciate as a leader of the Bridgeport Education Association, there is a respect due someone for the leadership position they represent as well as respect for the fact they are a fellow human being behaving in an age-appropriate way.
          I think it is very problematic these days to talk about racism in this City. Much better to talk about respect and have people acknowledge the responsibility for providing respect to others in spite of what appears to most as provocation, personal confrontations, and the misuse of governance tools at times. As a matter of fact there is an expression, “turnabout is fair play” that would seem to justify certain treatment. However, consistency is what is required along with OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT process, something I have discussed before.
          Publicly censuring a Board member in his absence may not look like the best action for a Board with this history for the past few years. It looks especially inappropriate at a meeting that failed to seriously deal with the apparent “ignorance” or “misuse” of powers of a Committee Chairman earlier in the meeting. The public looks at consequences of behavior that is visible to them … videos of a school principal dragging young students through school halls, videos of School Board members in heated conversation in different school board years at Board and/or at Committee meetings. Does it look like “it’s all about the kids,” or does it appear to be about other things? Time will tell.

  9. Mojo–maybe you should tell us since you were the one who brought race into the mix in a previous posting. I personally don’t care if the woman is black, white or green for that matter–she should have been given her walking papers.

  10. *** Simple response by me to a prior blog; and I was “not” the first one to bring up questions about race, it was “Denis OMalley” in a blog written at 6:17pm Feb.24th. As a matter of fact, it was right after one of your blogs (Godiva2011) concerning Baraka not showing up for a meeting she called for with Vallas! *** The question is still “why” would Ms. Dickson have been fired if she were white? ***

  11. Mojo–I made the statement because if white, most administrators, commissioners, community leaders are too chicken-shit to call out negative behavior on the part of minorities for fear of being branded a racist. I particularly refer to Dr. Kelleher over the past year. Not a lot of courage there.

    However if a white administrator were to abuse a child as did this principal, gone in a minute. As they should!

  12. This mess concerning the principal is not about race, it’s about a school principal and a BOE member cutting a deal. Baraka
    had her mind made up before the meeting. The more I see this Working Families Party in action, I have to wonder how long they are going to be around.

  13. Andy,
    You are absolutely correct. My people explained Dickson had three venues she could have chosen to resolve this issue. One was the Board hearing she picked. Another option was an arbitrator. I am not sure what the third option was. My point is she picked the board because she networked, called board members, cut deals before the hearing ever started. She KNEW the outcome before it ever started.

  14. *** One exposed video tape showing a 30-year school administrator drag slowly a repeat non-conforming motionless tantrum-throwing young kid down a hallway with two school security guards present alongside in part of the tape, does “not” in my opinion constitute enough to render a decision to terminate Ms. Dickson! Of course (after the fact) the politically correct-minded person would have called for one of the so-called professionals if available (counselor, school psych. etc.) before attempting to move the lad, who by the way did have a history of that kind of behavior (word from the grapevine). So this old school veteran administrator takes matters into her own hands, since she is the school principal and drags the kid down the empty hallway to a more isolated area where she might be able to communicate with the boy at last, for all we know. Again I’m giving an opinion on the tape I saw here on OIB and the BOE’s decision on this tape and incident. I’m not including past incidents, school lawsuits, past complaints against Ms. Dickson in other schools, hearsay, etc. *** STICKING TO THE INFO AND EVIDENCE PRESENTED, NO MORE, NO LESS ***


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