Hennessey, Baraka Maneuver For School Board Leadership

Hennessey, Baker, Gardner
Dave Hennessey, left, with Andre Baker and Howard Gardner.

When the Board of Education meets for its organizational meeting December 9, it will have five new members to select a new chair. Working Families Party member Sauda Baraka and Democrat Dave Hennessey are trying to line up the votes for leadership among the nine members.

Baraka, the senior member of the school board, is trying to leverage her longevity for the top spot. She presumably brings along the support of John Bagley, the other WFP member on the school board. Republican Joe Larcheveque squeezed out the WFP for the other minority-party representation spot in the general election. Larcheveque could well be a swing vote in the election for a school board chair.

Sauda Baraka and son.
Sauda Baraka, pictured here with her son, wants to lead the school board.

If Hennessey, a retired teacher with strong union leadership backing, secures the support of the two other winning Democrats in the general election, Andre Baker and Howard Gardner, he starts with three votes. Where does he go for two more votes? Larcheveque and Hennessey both live in Black Rock with common voter support from the neighborhood. In fact, one-third of Larcheveque’s entire support election day came from one voting precinct in Black Rock, the beneficiary of the high profile City Council race that galvanized voter interest. Baker, however, also ran on the WFP line in the general election. Does he have split allegiance?

Joe Larcheveque with sons. How will Joe vote?

That leaves three other Democrats on the board, the current chair Ken Moales, Jacqui Kelleher and Hernan Illingworth. How will they vote? Moales and Baraka have butted heads on numerous issues, they’re not exactly the best of buds. But is a piece of Moales saying hey, you want the job you got it, live it up? Kelleher, a professor at Sacred Heart University, occasionally broke from Moales and Illingworth to vote with Baraka. Could Baraka secure Kelleher’s vote? What will Illingworth do?

Could a compromise candidate such as Baker emerge? Stay tuned.



  1. During the campaign, the WFP candidates and the Democratic challengers rightly emphasized the need for a representative democracy, building on the 2012 voter rejection of Mayor Finch’s attempt to have voters forfeit their right to elect the city’s Board of Ed (BOE).

    In my 50+ hours of volunteer canvassing for the Democratic challenge slate in late August/early September and then later in the fall, I sensed voters desired change. The results confirmed this:
    1. Baker 3907 votes on the Democratic line, 1535 on the WFP.
    2. Hennessey (D) 3998.
    3. Gardner (D) 3763.
    4. Baraka (WFP line) 1823.
    5. Larcheveque (R) 1796.
    Source: www .sots.ct.gov/sots/lib/sots/electionservices/electionresults/2013/bridgeport.pdf

    Will the new BOE be listening to the voters on Dec 9?

    Why not, based on the basic tenets of representative democracy, have Baker be the first to be considered for heading the BOE by his fellow elected members? If for whatever reason(s) Baker doesn’t want to lead the BOE, then the next person by vote total, Hennessey, should be considered, and so on.

    To whomever leads the board come Dec 9:
    Thank you for your public service. Good luck to you and your fellow members. It seems to this observer we need to move toward a productive group of diverse, evidence-based opinions that bend toward consensus and educational progress in the best interests of our children, educational community, and the taxpayers of the City of Bridgeport and Connecticut. Confronted by chronically limited resources (B’port public schools now receives more than 80% of its budget from the state), the new BOE needs to create a viable near- and long-term plan that is developed and made available for public review in the first 100 days. While you focus on the search and selection of a suitable superintendent, please continue to tap into the community (parents, teachers, administrators, mentors, alumni, executives, non-profits)–from all walks of life–to build the best educational system for each child in our city today, tomorrow and beyond. To oversee this, you, the new BOE leader, will need tons of good (non-conflicted) help and will, wells of energy and time, humility, curiosity, resolve, diplomacy, wisdom, studiousness and a willingness to build broad support across real or only imagined differences. I hope you have all this and more at the ready in the content of your character. I wish you all the best.

  2. One assumes all current BOE members are up to speed on the Bridgeport public school five-year plan and modifications as well as the budgets and bi-monthly updates available. If they are hazy on the facts and plan directions, it would be a good time to review the material.
    It would be a reasonable expectation the newly elected might know the wealth of facts contained in these documents and reports as well because the system they will oversee and direct needs to be understood as a first order. If folks on the Board do not like where they are, changes will be considered, but reference to those who will be impacted, and what resources are affected in the future are items to be studied first so as not to create additional harm to the system.

    I hope the leadership team, both old and new members, take the time to listen to each other, to the exiting superintendent, especially to the professional leadership group in place who have been “running the RR” for two years without many policy signals from the current Board as well as to students, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders in the community. Time will tell.

  3. *** Either one (Hennessey/Baraka) would be a better change towards the right direction for the BOE at this time than Mr. Moales! However, let’s hope they all get a “much needed” refresher course on Roberts Rules of Order to start things off for all, on the same sheet of BOE music, no? ***


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