Harding Coach Hoop Hero John Bagley Hacked By Suits

LaMar Kennedy

When basketball legend John Bagley was named Harding High hoop coach by then-school chief Aresta Johnson the decision was universally all net. A few years later he’s been replaced by outgoing Board of Education member LaMar Kennedy touching off questions about the appropriateness of the move and the dubious treatment of an icon who Acting Superintendent of Schools Mike Testani claims lacked certification, something Bagley contests.

Testani himself is not certified to be school chief. He’s working under a waiver from the state commissioner of education while schooling for certification.

Basketball in Bridgeport enjoys an elite history: Bagley, Wes Matthews, Walter Luckett, Charles Smith, Chris Smith, John Garris. Those guys could flat play.

John Bagley
John Bagley campaigning in 2012. Photo by Jim Callahan.

Following graduation from Harding, Bagley attended Boston College where he twice led the Eagles deep into the NCAA tournament. Starting in 1982, he played 10 seasons in the NBA, including Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets and Boston Celtics.

Bagley, gracious and understated, never forgot Bridgeport, returning to the city of his youth. In 2012 he was elected to the Board of Education on the Working Families Party line. He served for about two years.

When Bagley took over as Harding coach the prevailing attitude was he’d be around plenty long to turn around the program. Two years isn’t much time.

Bagley did not have a winning record at Harding, nor Kennedy in Waterbury.

Kennedy has a sports pedigree from his days playing football at Central as well as coaching football and assistant coaching basketball at Waterbury’s Wilby High where he’s also a special education teacher.

From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:

“They didn’t want me,” Bagley said of Harding Principal Dane Brown, Harding Athletic Director Andrew Grasso and Testani.

“They did an evaluation and didn’t give me a good evaluation because they didn’t want me there,” Bagley said. “Brown recommended that I not return.”

You don’t become basketball coach at Harding for the money. The part-time job pays $5,472.

Connecticut law prohibits school employees from serving on the education board that oversees them.

Sec. 10-232. Restrictions on employment of members of board of education. Notwithstanding the provisions of any special act to the contrary, no member of the board of education shall be employed for compensation by the board of which he or she is a member in any position in the school system. If any member of such board is employed contrary to the provisions of this section, the office to which he or she was elected or appointed shall become vacant. No provision of this section shall be construed to prohibit any member of a board of education from serving as a member of any school building committee established by a town or regional school district to undertake a school building project as defined in section 10-282.

After announcing initially that he’d resign the school board prior to his term ending Nov. 30, Kennedy did an about face when the board’s legal adviser offered it’s okay to stay on because his start date is Dec. 5, a decision receiving blowback from Maria Pereira, another outgoing school board member, who is joining the City Council.

Pereira writes on her Facebook page:

This is Lamar Kennedy.

While serving as one of nine Bridgeport Board of Education members in an incredible position of power he was interviewing for a coaching position with the very public schools he governs.

This is highly corrupt and unethical conduct. It is against the law to serve on a school board while simultaneously being employed by that very same school board.

He told the CT Post he would be submitting his resignation today and then rescinded that statement late this afternoon.

He showed up late for tonight’s school Board meeting wearing sneakers, sweatpants, a hoodie and a reversed baseball cap knowing that hundreds of students, parents and staff would be in attendance for an awards ceremony.

Is there any Bridgeport official in it for those they serve, not for what they or their friends/family can personally gain from it?



  1. As some may recall I advocated for Lamar Kennedy to be appointed to the Board of Education after Dennis Bradley resigned.

    I was deeply concerned that there would not be a single black male serving on the school board.

    I knew he was not a political operative, he was born and raised on the East End and still resides there today. He is a certified Special Education teacher which has been a consistent area of concern on the Board of Education. I thought his perspective was critically needed.

    He was not appointed to replace Dennis Bradley as the politically connected Joseph Lombard was appointed.

    Ben Walker then resigned but not before he had changed his party to Libertarian. Amazingly Lamar Kennedy was a registered Libertarian. He was the only qualified candidate that applied and interviewed to fill the vacancy.

    I was deeply disturbed when just weeks later I received credible information that 135th District Leader Steve Nelson personally escorted Lamar Kennedy to meet with Mario Testa at Testo’s Pizzeria BEFORE he was appointed to the Board

    I called him and asked him if the credible information was true. He paused, appeared incredibly uncomfortable and denied it.

    I went on to review specific excerpts of the conversation Lamar made at that meeting. Lamar immediately interrupted me and said “that’s not what I said.” He incriminated himself. He should have said there was no meeting. Instead he denied making specific statements at the very meeting he said he never participated in.

    At the same time I received information that in 2016 he was arrested along with 13 other men at the Quality Inn in Stratford for involvement with a Prostitution Ring.

    He said he had been arrested in that matter but it was an error and that his lawyer was able to get the charges dropped.

    I had difficulty why Lamar Kennedy would be at the Quality Inn caught up in arrests related to a prostitution ring when he had his own home in the East End.

    I knew at this point to keep him at arms length as he could not be trusted. I, however watched him closely as his attendance was poor, he often arrived to meetings late and often came to meetings without a single piece of paper in his possession or made it quite obvious he had often not read a single document provided in preparation for our meetings.

    Post #2 to follow.

  2. Post #2

    The day before the Board was going to vote on the appointment of the Acting Superintendent,,Lamar Kennedy called me unsolicited. He shared he was completely opposed to Mike Testani. He told me when he was a paraprofessional in the BPS, before he obtained his teaching certification, that he “couldn’t stand” Mike Testani was an “asshole.”

    He said he wanted to expose those Board members in Testani’s back pocket and he felt it was important that Joe Sokolovic make sure John Weldon was called last to force him into a position to break the tie. He had spoken to Joseph Lombard and was adamant he was not going to vote for Testani and would be voting for Dr. Brice.

    Lamar further stated he was going to expose the school board members in favor of Testani because they had been lobbying him, specifically John Weldon. I said that’s the big plan. I don’t think you understand these people have no shame.

    I did however agree to contact Joe Sokolovic regarding his request for the roll call vote.

    The next night we are debating the candidates and then Joe Sokolovic begins the roll call vote. When Sokolovic calls Lamar Kennedy he stated “pass.” Immediately red flags went up.

    The “paas” is often used at City Council meetings and the DTC meetings as a method to determine where the majority shakes out on an issue or nomination. This is often used by those who have absolutely no conviction and are vote purely on political outcomes. Will my vote be a factor in the outcome?. If not, I can vote to abstain and claim I had nothing to do with the outcome, or I can vote for or against something important an parrot that something would pass or fail regardless of their vote.

    Eight school voard members cast their vote at it was 5 to 3 when Sokolovic came back to Lamar Kennedy. Shockingly Lamar Kennedy announced because his vote would not change the outcome he would abstain.

    Per CT state law a Board of Education only had one direct employee that they hire evaluate, and terminate. The Superintendent is the highest paid employee in Bridgeport that is the CEO of the largest school district with 20,400 students and 2,700 employees and Lamar Kennedy was refusing to cast a vote.

    I knew in that moment he had likely been coached by Steve Nelson or a high level Mario Testa operative that if his vote would not make a difference in the outcome he was not to cast a vote against Mike Testani because it is quite embarrassing for ANY Acting or Superintendent to be appointed on a 5 to 4 votes, especially if Chris Taylor is one of his votes.

    When the SEEC rules that Chris Taylor was sitting on the Bridgeport Board of Education illegally it will mean Mike Testani had been serving as Acting Superintendent illegitimately.

    Post #3 to follow

  3. Post #3

    Once Mike Testani is appointed Lamar Kennedy votes to approve his contract although he in no way had the qualifications to receive $230,000. In fact, it was $10,000 more than we authorized Berchem and Moses to negotiate. We all know Berchem and Moses are Joe Ganim paid mercenaries who make millions per year from the BOE and City of Bridgeport.

    Lamar Kennedy became increasingly supportive of Mike Testani and actually tried to change his previous public testimony on his own son’s bus transportation. I called at him and then he said he wasn’t sure his previous testimony was accurate. This was in support of Mike Testani allowing every single BPS student to receive bus transportation regardless of the two mile distance while every Central,Bassick, Harding and BMA,student only receive bus transportation if they reside two or more miles away from their sxhool.

    He publically supported pushing additional special education students into a special education program that had a history of success in large part to the low student to staff ratios.

    It was obvious Lamar Kennedy could suddenly “stand” Mike Testani and he was no longer an “asshole ”

    Suddenly, late last week the Warren Harding High School Athletic Director announced that although Lamar Kennedy was a sitting school board who is responsible for supervising Mike Testani and governing the BPS. Now Mike Testani, the only employee Lamar Kennedy directly supervises would now be Lamar’s ultimate supervisor and approved his employment. Mike Testani also repeatedly stated he wants Lamar Kennedy to be a full time employee as a Special Education teacher in the BPS.

    This is without question one of the most unethical arrangements I have witnessed in my ten years of involvement with the Board of Education. This is without question a quid pro quo.

  4. Post #4

    Once I realized the iconic Warren Harding High School alum that played in the NBA was no longer going to coach the WHHS Varsity Basketball I immediately called John Bagley.

    He explained that he had been incredibly disrespected by Acting Superintendent Mike Testani, Principal Dane Brown and Athletic Director Grasso, all of whom have no roots in our community, certainly not in the East Side/East End.

    Dr. Johnson had assisted John Bagley in obtaining a provisional coaching certification which expired in December 2018. Mike Testani told me that it HAD 7expired in December 2018, however John Bagley is adamant he received an extension until December 3, 2019. In fact, when John Bagley showed up to coach in December 2018 Principal Brown and Athletic Director Grasso told him he would not be allowed to coach. Unbeknownst to me John Bagley contacted Dr. Johnson in December 2018 and she interceded and directed Mike Testani, Principal Brown and Athletic Director Grasso that John Bagley was working towards his certification and he was to be allowed to coach.

    Principal Dane Brown behaved in a retaliatory manner and on two separate occasions escorted John Bagley out of WHHS telling him he could only enter the school to coach after school, however no other coach was required to adhere to the same guidelines. Over the Summer Princupal Dane Brown directed the custodians to not allow John Bsgley into the building.

    In the Spring of 2019 John Bagley completed his certification course. In August 2019 he received his CPR certification which must be renewed every two years. John Bagley is adamant he personally submitted his paperwork to HR to submit it to the state to obtain his permanent certification. John Bagley asserts that paperwork was not submitted to the state. The Varsity Basketball Coaching position was posted as a vacancy September 5, 2019 AFTER John Bagley had submitted his paperwork to H.R.

    At the end of the school year Principal Dane Brown delivered John Bagley and closed with a statement that the “recommendation ” was that John Bagley would not return for the 2020 season.

    John Bsgley did not share any of this with me as it was transpiring.

  5. Post #5

    On Veteran’s Day I texted Mike Testani about this matter and he immediately called me and we engaged in a lengthy conversation.

    Mike Testani repeatedly asserted John Bagley was not properly certified for the part-time coaching position which pays $5,200 annually.

    The hypocrisy was outrageous. Mike Testani does not have the required certification to be a Superintendent anywhere in CT and had to seek a waiver from the Commissioner of Education to serve as the ACTING Superintendent of the largest school District in CT earning $230,000 annually.

    So let me get this straight.

    We have a white guy from Fairfield earning $230,000 per year who is not certified to serve as a Superintendent and is responsible for the education of 20,400 students trying to hold the iconic black WHHS alum who played in the NBA who is responsible for coaching about 40 male high school students playing varsity basketball for $5,200 annually for not being properly certified.

    If this isn’t white privelege I don’t know what is.

    I asked Mike Testani who in their right mind wouldn’t want a successful former NBA player who grew up in the community, graduated from WHHS, can directly relate to these children because he was once in the shoes of these very students, and is one of the most humble, kind, and caring people you would ever meet?

    Mike Testani responded with “just because he was an NBA player does not mean he is a good coach.”

    I said based on what. Testani stated he won 5 games and lost 14 games last season. I asked what were his results in his first season. Testani stated he won 10 and lost 11. I stated that is a big difference. I stressed that Bagley coaches Varsity therefore he could have lost some key players. Testani said he did not know.

    I called John Bagley and he said he lost three starters because one student moved back to P.R., one transferred to Capital Prep Charter $school and one had an injury and could not play last season.

    I asked Testani what was Lamar Kennedy’s amazing record. Testani stated he did not know.

    I have since learned that in Lamar Kennedy’s capacity as the Assistant Basketball Coach in Waterbury he had 2 wins and 19 losses!

    You just can’t make this s__t up.

    Mike Testani has approved one of his supervisors on the school board being hired as a BPS employee which means Lamar Kennedy ultimately reports to Acting Superintendent Mike Testani who is ultimately in control of Lamar’s job and income.

    Meanwhile Lamar Kennedy, and Chair John Weldon, believe it is appropriate, ethical, moral and principled that Kennedy serve on the school board voting on initiatives, contracts and programs proposed by his new boss who is publicly calling for Lamar Kennedy to be fully employed as Special Education teacher with the BPS, and continue to participate in his supervisory role of Mike Testani who is his new boss.

    This is incredibly corrupt and dishonest.

  6. having worked in the BPS (as a special education paraprofessional) I know that there is no way that Maria could possibly make this stuff up. what happened to John Bagley can be repeated over and over again. Good, qualified and capable staff – teachers, coaches, paraprofessionals and others -LEAVE Bridgeport for other districts because of the political nonsense that goes on. I know. I’ve been there

  7. WHAT A DAMM DISGRACE. Lennie do you have any details? This definitely needs to be fought but I’ll wait to hear what John wants to do out of respect for John.

  8. A group of community leaders and Warren Harding High School alumni are meeting this evening to formulate a strategy.

    Not only am I a proud Warren Harding High School graduate that cares deeply about the success of my alma mater, Warren Harding High SchooL is situated in the 138th District, therefore many of my constiuents children and grandchildren attend WHHS..

    Acting Superintendent Mike Testani, Principal Fane Brown, and Athletic Director Grasso have behaved outrageously and must be held accountable.

  9. Bags is the man!!!
    But it seems as if It is all about Maria.
    Let it go and let John Bagley or the parents fight it out. Injecting yourself into the fight will only stiffen the resistance.

  10. Bob,

    You have to know that your opinion of me is irrelevant.

    I have been in regular communication with John Bagley about this outrageous situation as well as ACTING Superintendent Mike Testani.

    Another white guy residing in the suburbs who knows what’s best for those of us intimately involved in a troubling situation in Bridgeport.

    By the way, Bob, I grew up on the lower east side, attended WHHS, and WHHS is now officially in the 138th District in which Samia and I are the City Council members elect and I am an elected Bridgeport Board of Education member until November 30, 2019.

    You, sir, cannot claim ANY of those same set of facts.

  11. You are right. However, I served 17 years on the City Council and I knew where the boundaries lie. You just want to fight everybody about everything. Call me if you last 10 years on the council.

  12. Check Mate Bobby, there’s no come back from, “I served 17 years on the City Council, Call me if you last 10 years on the council.” That’s just beautiful man!

  13. More important, headlines in the CT Post read “Bridgeport drops zoning change aimed at SHU students.”
    You don’t need to serve on the City Council to have figured this one out. Ganim gets re-elected and gone is every effort to crack down on zoning.
    Why don’t you concentrate on this one Maria. Let’s see how good you really are.

  14. I dare anyone to challenge John Bagley’s qualifications to coach at WHHS. He offers so much more to his players that just how to run a defense or shoot a layup. To these young men, John Bagley represents possibility, promise, hope. Unfortunately, outsiders have decided that wins are more important than character. I’m sure John feels kicked to the curb. All he wants is to set the record straight and clear his name.

    Whether it’s Maria or whoever who organizes a way for us to help him is irrelevant. Put your differences assure. Stay current with the blog, show up when asked, and show some love for an original Bridgeporter.


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