Things are getting testy among Board of Education members. Maria Pereira and her feisty coalition of Bobby Simmons and Sauda Baraka have been warring with majority Board of Education members since she and Baraka won election on the Working Families party line last November. Pereira’s latest target is BOE finance chair Pat Crossin, who served for years on the City Council. Pereira says Crossin wants to change the rules to discuss new business and public speaking. Crossin says Pereira has a weak grasp for facts and is nothing but a demagogue.
Crossin is recommending that the public speaking portion of BOE meetings become more orderly, modeled after his days on the City Council that allowed for the legislative body to know the subject matter at hand in advance so they could better prepare to respond to questions.
Pereira, who has a history of temper flareups during her time on the board, claims Crossin wants to limit public speaking and issued this eblast on Monday to juice a turnout for Tuesday’s board meeting at the Aquaculture School in Black Rock.
Pat Crossin has introduced significant changes to our bylaws that will limit public speaking. Those wishing to speak would have to contact the Superintendent’s office 6 days before the Board meeting and state the topic that they want to address and give their names. The Board agenda is not published until the Friday before the meeting. This will enable the majority to stop the public from addressing items the Board would vote on in the Monday Board meeting. The public speaking portion will be BEFORE the Regular Board meeting which means Board members are not required to be present.
Pat Crossin has proposed removing Old Business and New Business from the agenda stating it is against the Freedom of Information Act. This is a complete lie. This was done because Bobby, Sauda and I utilize Old Business to discuss previous items that have been discussed. Commitments are made by (board president Barbara) Bellinger and Dr. Ramos during public meetings but then nothing is done. I checked the City Charter and Old Business and New Business is on the City Council’s agenda.
Pat Crossin has also recommended that each committee vote on referrals to that committee. This is an attempt to reject all referrals sent to committee by Sauda and Bobby and I. They are the majority in every committee. They also want the ability to table items in committee indefinitely. Specifically stating that every matter tabled in committee must stay in committee. This is their way of ensuring that if Bobby, Sauda and I call a Special Meeting we can only place items on the agenda that are not in committee …
On Friday, we received our board packets at approximately 5:30 P.M. Our Regular Board meetings are scheduled for 7:00. The majority are holding a 5:30 P.M. Special meeting at Aquaculture School PRIOR to the 7:00 P.M. meeting. They have taken every relevant item off the Regular Agenda and placed it on the agenda for the 5:30 P.M. Meeting. This includes approving Dr. Ramos’ health benefits contract changes, which will cost the taxpayers approximately $90,000 and approving $55,000 for Paul Timpanelli. The only items left on the Regular agenda is approving minutes, voting on a class trip and consent agenda items that include retirements, leave of absences, etc. … Nothing of any significance.
The goal is clear. It is very difficult to get members of the public to attend a 5:30 P.M. meeting and the public may not speak at a Special Meeting. The goal is to silence the opposition, parents, taxpayers and community leaders.
I recognize the difficulty of arriving for a 5:30 P.M. meeting but respectfully request your presence. The 9 Board members were, “Elected for the people, by the people.” and I ask that you demand transparency and a right to participate in the decisions made in your children’s, nieces, nephews, grandchild’s educational outcomes.
Crossin says the special meeting was set for 5:30 to address Superintendent of Schools John Ramos’ contract and money requested by Bridgeport Regional Business Council CEO Paul Timpanelli for the final phase of a comprehensive review of BOE operations without the discussion running late into the night. Crossin responds:
Freedom of Information has ruled that you can’t have new or old business without having the items already listed on the agenda or without a 2/3 vote to add items to the agenda. With this in mind it doesn’t make sense to have a place on the agenda for old or new business … either an item gets referred to committee or discussed by the board as a whole and if they don’t want stuff referred to committee, then why are they always referring items to committees.
If we know in advance that a speaker wants to discuss the Breakfast Program we as board members can be in touch with staff to better respond to their concerns. To say this limits public speaking is incorrect. This is a better process to address their questions. The public also has a right to know who will be speaking. Does Maria Pereira care about the kids? They want to argue about everything. We should be talking about how to fund pre-K, we should be discussing improving our school system. We should be talking about the kids needs. Instead, they want to posture and talk about nonsense.