Education Advocates Support School Board Coalition

Six city residents active in education issues joined for this response to school board member Kevin McSpirit’s commentary entitled “Pereira is impediment to progress.” This commentary also appeared in the Connecticut Post.

No members of the public attend more Bridgeport Board of Education (BBOE) meetings than us. Our view of the BBOE is not from 15 second clips on TV, twitter, Facebook, or poor reporting from the Connecticut Post.

It is from spending hours sitting at BOE meetings night after night. We are Bridgeport public school parents and community leaders actively involved in the BPS. And we stand with not only Maria Pereira, but Sauda Baraka, Howard Gardner and Ben Walker. These four BBOE members have never abdicated their responsibilities to our over 21,000 students.

McSpirit wrote that the board meetings are “bogged down” over issues he deemed unimportant, like whether interim Superintendent Rabinowitz’s contract is valid or if the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) is operating effectively.

Well, those are important issues to us, and not only do we support that the Board address these issues; we specifically asked Ms. Pereira to help us with the DPAC. Ms. Pereira and her colleagues respected the will of BPS parents and scheduled a meeting that McSpirit, Chair Dennis Bradley and Vice-Chair Joe Larcheveque also “boycotted.” These board members treated us with respect, listened to our concerns, and made recommendations that the vast majority of the DPAC executive board agreed with.

When it was placed on the regular board agenda to be discussed and approved by the full board, and after we patiently waited in the audience for over 5 hours, it was McSpirit, Bradley, Larcheveque and Rabinowitz that showed us absolutely no respect, and simply got up and walked out. Where was your call for “respect” then?

It has been Pereira, Baraka, Gardner and Walker who not only relentlessly pursued the search for a permanent superintendent, but also the completion of her review which is over two years past due. McSpirit, Bradley and Larcheveque have conspired with Rabinowitz to obstruct the progress on these two issues important to parents, including the most recent “boycott.”

The problem on the board is Bradley, Larcheveque, the illegal appointee Negron, McSpirit and the collusion with Rabinowitz.

Bradley’s conduct is outrageous for a variety of reasons, which include that he has no idea what he is doing, how to run a meeting, behaves like a dictator and cares nothing for the well-being of our children. Bradley’s only concern is his political aspirations and how he can do the bidding of Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa and Mayor Ganim.

Pereira holds Rabinowitz accountable for her actions or lack thereof. That is McSpirit’s job, too. McSpirit’s oped has blatant lies in it regarding Pereira. This is what is referred to as “propaganda” and “spin” in an attempt to deflect attention away from both you and your colleagues’ horrendous decision to abdicate your legal responsibilities to our children.

Pereira read a prepared statement about Negron at the last regular meeting that was professional and factual, and we agreed with it 100 percent. We also do not recognize Negron as a legal member of the BOE and agree that those that don’t pay their real estate taxes should not get to make decisions on the BOE about our tax dollars.

As an outsider, McSpirit does not speak for what BPS parents and what true Bridgeporters consider a “horrendous example.” However, we do.

McSpirit is from an affluent suburb and purchased a home in the affluent Black Rock area in April 2012. He will never understand or relate to our children, our neighborhoods, or what we face in many of our communities on a daily basis.

However, Maria Pereira epitomizes Bridgeport because she was born and raised on the lower East Side, attended our schools, graduated from Warren Harding High School, her own child graduated from the BPS, and she can connect with children and parents from all walks of life. When parents call on her she is there, and she has stood with true public school parents for years. You cannot say the same.

There are “horrendous examples” on our school board, and that would include chair Bradley, Larcheveque, the illegal and completely absentee appointee Negron and McSpirit.

As a former member of the Navy, Mr. McSpirit, if you had ever “boycotted” your responsibilities, you would have been court marshaled. Therefore, it is you and your colleagues, who have chosen to pull a political stunt and abdicate your responsibilities, that need to either report for “duty” or resign.

We stand united with Pereira, Baraka, Gardner and Walker, who have done more for our BPS children than you and your colleagues will likely accomplish in your lifetime.

Tammy Boyle, DPAC Recording Secretary & SPAC Vice President Bridgeport Military Academy

Albert Benejan, DPAC District Committee, Community representative and PTSO President Bassick High School

Cynthia Infante, DPAC District Committee Community representative

JoAnn Kennedy, DPAC District Committee Community representative

Nilda Barahona, PAC President Blackham School

Karen Jackson, Former BBOE Candidate and activist



  1. If we return to the September 12 meeting where some people felt continuation of meetings in such fashion was intolerable. And to some of the “some” if one person was eliminated from the process, things would proceed reasonably. Apologies to those who would look at what has happened to the galaxy of BOE, Superintendent’s office, and more that 2200 school employees and tell the story in an alternative manner.

    But let’s look at that September 12 Agenda with more than 40 items listed for attention. Has the list of items to be addressed grown? Probably, but are they all policy issues, or do they move into areas of management? Whatever your thoughts, can you address 40 issues at once, or must you prioritize? Failing to know your priorities is a general problem in the City at this time. For the past 10 months, Mayor Ganim has failed to clearly state the several priorities that have guided his funding, personnel and re-organization decisions. Why is that? How is that good for the public?

    Can’t the same accusation stand against the BOE? What are their priorities? How are they attending to them? Can they meet specifically to frame out those priorities and communicate them to the public? Those priorities may not be my priorities at this time, but let’s trust first, see what measurements are provided to verify and see whether progress occurs and more priorities can be addressed. Time will tell.

  2. I would like to thank these BPS parents and BPS advocates for their support. I feel comfortable stating I am sure Ms. Baraka, Mr. Gardner and Mr. Walker appreciate their support as well.

    These are the parents/members of the public who attend the most BOE meetings and you will often find them sitting at Regular BOE Meetings even at 10:30 PM.They are very dedicated.

    There are a few others as well like Angel Resto, but not many.

  3. It is likely at least one other BOE member may find it necessary to leave the Board before the term of election expires. What does one say to the successors when one finds this action necessary and reasonable for you? What priorities loom in your mind that you hope existing and future members will get their arms around to serve the 21,000 youth best? Time will tell.

  4. What a mess! The Bradley and Company boycott as well as the legal legitimacy of the Ganim appointees need to be addressed before we can even discuss the quantity and quality of the BOE meeting agendas.

  5. The BOE mayoral appointment controversy will be decided in court, which is unfortunate. The whole question of appointment prerogatives could have been avoided by timely action by the pre-boycott BOE by way of a compromise candidate.

    But the present, reconstituted BOE should at least be meeting in order to accomplish non-policy decision-making, pending a court decision on the appointment process.

    This life-long Bridgeporter, who attended Central High for my high school years, and witnessed the erosion of education standards and community support for public education in the form of a Republican-led, citywide tax strike during that time (that targeted “fat” in the emaciated public school budget), can’t believe the idiotic, immature behavior I’m witnessing by city elected officials involved in this present controversy.

    Okay. So BOE member Maria Pereira has thrown down a political gauntlet and created a factional impasse on BOE policy-making. Well, the intelligent way to handle this not-unheard-of type of decision-making board situation is to table the impasse matters and divert to a pragmatic modus operandi where necessary budgetary and administrative matters of non-partisan description can be attended to. This happens all the time, even during institutional management crises. Even warring factions involved in combat situations manage to hold peace talks and attend to essential humanitarian matters.

    But not the BOE boycotters! You people are an embarrassment! Your ridiculous behavior symbolizes all the dysfunction in Bridgeport government that encourages the disdain of our city by those who would benefit by our dysfunction. What corporations would want to locate operations in a city where the Chairman of the BOE can’t find a way to muster the leadership skills necessary to negotiate the obstacles presented by one politically recalcitrant board member and her allies such that emergency-basis meetings could at least be conducted to allow necessary business and the appearance of necessary functionality to be achieved in lieu of the creation of a formal accord allowing full board functionality?

    If I’m thinking about expanding my company’s manufacturing operations, and I’m conscious of the need for city assistance in negotiating the regulatory environment of the city and state in setting up my operations, am I going to want to trust BRIDGEPORT MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT to help me in this regard? What if there are political problems on the land-use boards? (What if my relocating employees are concerned about the school system?!) Am I going to put Bridgeport on my list of possible expansion cities when I see the BS going on with the BOE and see the complacency/complicity of City Hall in this regard? (And Connecticut? If I see a state willing to let its largest city languish in dysfunction, serving as the state’s dumping ground and servants quarters, do I want to come to Connecticut?)

    And then when I hear extreme, bizarre statements from the BOE Chair at a public rally attempting to generate public support for the (illegal) meeting boycott (by his faction) in which he is quoted on camera by Channel 12 News he will “bring out the National Guard, if necessary.” To what? Conduct a BOE meeting? Restrain Maria Pereira? ATTORNEY Dennis Bradley needs the NATIONAL GUARD to back him up at a nine-member board meeting because he lacks the leadership skills to bring civility and essential focus to a meeting dealing with BOE, non-policy essentials?!

    Into the hands of what kind of idiots have the educational lives of Bridgeport public school children been placed such that we have the Chairman of the BOE leading an illegal boycott of the meetings, defending that illegal behavior via the news media, and rallying public support for that behavior via an official platform (further exacerbating community rifts in a very distressed, fragmented community. And with supposedly high-minded, civic leader, elected board members such as Mr. McSpirit writing supportive editorials in this regard.) INEXCUSABLE! ILLEGAL! PUNISHABLE BY FINE AND JAIL. AND JUST PLAIN DISGUSTING! (AND INFURIATING!)

    The kids lose. The city loses. The boycott must end. The boycotters should be arrested, removed from the board/relieved of their duties in that context, and replaced by the remaining, non-boycotting board members, in short order. And essential board business must resume.





    1. Good posting, Jeff. This is where and when I think power went to Bradley’s head. The day Dennis saw the election results and noticed he got more votes than everybody else, he took it as an indication that voters believed he was the second coming of a political god. I guess he never stopped to think that G2 campaign was a team effort.

  6. Interesting opinion piece in today’s New Haven Register by Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. It appears the reformers are prepping for another state takeover of our BOE.

      1. Maria, who is paying or will be paying for all these court challenges? You had stated y’all were raising money to challenge the Negron appointment. Can we have some transparency as to who are the people funding the legal cost of the court challenge?

  7. Jeff Kohut, thank you for your cogent and coherent statement on the “boycotters” of the BBOE. You have succinctly expressed the outrage I have felt concerning these so-called “boycotters” since September 12th. I could feel my blood pressure rise as I read your words. The whole stupidity, childishness and selfishness of their actions boggle one’s mind. I wish you would submit your words as an Op-Ed in the local newspaper so more of the public could likewise feel your concern.

  8. A more complete quote from my post in regard to the effects of Maria’s adamancy concerning how certain BOE issues are handled is:

    “Okay. So BOE member Maria Pereira has thrown down a political gauntlet and created a factional impasse on BOE policy-making. Well, the intelligent way to handle this not-unheard-of type of decision-making board situation is to table the impasse matters and divert to a pragmatic modus operandi where necessary budgetary and administrative matters of non-partisan description can be attended to.”

    So the essence of what I meant by that statement was Maria has refused to waive protocol at board meetings for any reason and has also refused to cede any board prerogatives regarding the handling of administrative or policy matters concerning decisions on board composition, et al., and in that context, has created a resonance fostering the creation of “opposing factions” on the board with respect to the movement of certain board business.

    This situation, as I also stated above, is one of the possible expectations for board performance in the operation of any real-life board. Indeed, it is a “normal” expectation involving any real democratic process. Different philosophies on different issues often lead to problematic, confrontational voting/decision-making situations in democratic bodies. In this sense, Maria serves as the essential “lightning rod” of the BBOE. It is the role of the Chair to facilitate compromise and lead in the exploration of alternatives in order to get around impasses that are the result of this type of predictable eventuality along the course of a truly democratic process. Antagonistic confrontation (in the face of democratic impasse) on the part of the BOE Chair is the antithesis of his role. Refusing to meet and attempt to handle business by the Chair and his faction demands the removal of the Chair and his “striking” supporters. In regard to this situation of the refusal of the leadership and the leadership-aligned faction of the BBOE to meet with the rest of the board to at least try to handle business; it is just plain unheard of, bizarre and illegal. This latter situation is clearly perceivable in terms of black and white, the Maria faction is clearly right and the Bradley faction is clearly wrong. The situation puts on a horrible, destructive face for Bridgeport and sets a horrible example for our children.

    To be clear. It is the job of board members to question, debate and function to move necessary business such that all relevant rules are being followed and the interests of the charges of the board are being served. All evidence indicates Maria is playing by the rules, acting out of conscience, and operating with the expectation the rest of the board operate similarly. This has created a functional impasse on the board. The remedy for this impasse is for capable leadership to foster cohesion toward the common purpose of getting essential business done by the board and for capable leadership to facilitate compromise and alternative approaches for accomplishing board business. Board leadership is refusing to even attempt to do its job, and indeed, is leading a strike by essential board members in such a way as to preclude any possibility of board functionality. Criminal!

  9. Jeff, I love what you have posted here, however I just want to clarify I have never refused to move forward with the selection of candidates to fill the vacancies.

    I made a public statement at our first regular BBOE meeting that I believed Ms. Negron was not a legal BOE member and would not recognize her as such until a judge ruled otherwise. I also referenced I have had a long-standing position that those who don’t pay their taxes should never be in a position to make decisions about millions of taxpayer dollars.

    That was it and I was done. By the way, my attorney recommended I place my position on the public record because he was already preparing for the lawsuit.

    The first vacancy was an issue because the City Attorney relayed to Bradley the vacancy had to be filled by a Republican. Without any notification or consultation with at least Ms. Baraka, Mr. Gardner and Mr. Walker, Bradley decided the entire process and timeline to fill the vacancy and authorized a CT Post advertisement stating the vacancy must be filled with a Republican. We were sent all of the above after all was said and done in violation of BOE policy. In fact, he decided to run the ad in the CT Post on Sunday, June 5th and all interested applicants had to submit a letter of interest and resume by noon the next day.

    We immediately requested the legal opinion that stated Hennessey’s vacancy had to be filled with a Republican. We were sent a three-paragraph email City Attorney Meyer sent to Linda Lambeck from the CT Post. I am not kidding.

    We requested a formal legal opinion from both the City Attorney and our BOE firm (really Rabinowitz’ firm) with specific precedents and case law supporting Meyers email. Well our BOE law firm issued a legal opinion on why it had to be a Republican that did not list one legal precedent to support the vacancy had to be filled by a Republican. The City Attorney gave us a legal opinion on why the mayor could appoint someone to fill the vacancy after 30 days, which the BOE never requested.

    When City Attorney Meyer and Mark Anastasi showed up at a Special Meeting in which we were going to discuss this without a request of the board which is required by BOE policy, and we challenged their uninvited presence, Bradley said he was going to allow them to speak anyway.

    I specifically asked Meyers where is the court ruling, case law, legal precedents, etc. that supports your position that it must be a Republican? He replied “there is none.” He stated “I am the city attorney and it’s my job to interpret the City Charter.” He went onto say the language was clear and unambiguous and his interpretation was correct. Several of us were incredulous.

    We were unable to resolve the Republican versus Democrat to even move onto the process to fill the vacancy.

    The process to fill Andre Baker’s vacancy ran smoothly. We all met and agreed to the process, the timeline, the contents of the CT Post, etc. We held interviews with all the candidates that qualified except one who was out of the country.

    We were scheduled to vote on Andre Baker’s replacement at our Regular BOE meeting scheduled for Monday, September 12, 2016 when the boycotting members issued their press release just three hours before the meeting was supposed to begin. That would have been the 28th day since Baker’s resignation.

    I hope this clears up any confusion, Jeff.

    1. Just because September 12, 2016 was the date set to vote on Andre Baker’s replacement doesn’t mean the seat would have been filled. A 4 to 4 vote would have carried the issue beyond 28 days past Baker’s resignation hence opening the door for a mayoral appointment.

    1. Jeff, your commentary is worthy and correct. I have nothing to add to it that could enhance your observations and opinions. But what got caught in the weeds, and by now has been forgotten by the less-savvy involved is this travesty was the creation of Mario Testa and condoned by Joe Ganim. They set it up, with the support of enough BOE members, to place Dennis Bradley as Chair of the Board. They knew little of this man, underestimated his ego, knew nothing of whether or not he possessed leadership skills, and the topper is they either didn’t know, or chose to ignore his ambition to hold higher office. In his ignorance of how to climb the political ladder, his intention was to create press and attention around himself, and it backfired for all involved. There’s a court decision pending, and the possibility of another vacancy on the Board. I hold every member present and future to a very high standard of conduct and decorum. At this point, remember how it began, fix it, don’t allow interference from the TC or Administration, and all of you grow up and keep in mind your first responsibility, the students!


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