Sitting through a Board of Education meeting these days is a battle of attrition. The friction rubs up 5 to 4, the general vote controlled by the thinnest of margins by Democrats over three members of Connecticut’s Working Families Party, Maria Pereira, Sauda Baraka and John Bagley, joined by renegade Democrat Bobby Simmons who’s up for reelection this year. The BOE is sorting through a lot of issues with one of the largest ones the future of Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas. Will he stay beyond the end of the school year? Conversations are underway to offer a contract.
It seems as though the goal of the minority coalition is making enough noise, questioning Vallas’ every move, to frustrate him into saying sayonara. If successful, the minority coalition may consider that a major victory. Do they have anyone better in mind? Irrespective of Vallas’ short-cut management style does anyone think he’s not an improvement over what the system had 10 years prior?
Some of the hair-splitting is annoying for parents sitting through these four- and five-hour BOE meetings, and at times frustrating for Vallas enduring four members who want to stick a rag in his mouth. Should the superintendent be allowed to respond to questions by the public at BOE meetings? Should the superintendent be allowed to speak at Mayor Bill Finch’s neighborhood sessions to gauge parent input about schools? These are the types of items school board members debate.
Did the people elect school board members to petty these kinds of decisions? Whatever happened to the school chief running the day-to-day operations and the school board setting broader policies?
In addition to Democrat Simmons, the WFP-aligned Pereira and Baraka are up for reelection in November. Simmons will have to do a Houdini act to be endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee this summer, forcing him to run a September primary if he seeks reelection. There’s talk the Democratic Party regulars are recruiting petitioning candidates to challenge Pereira and Baraka in November. The Bridgeport BOE operates under minority-party representation so theoretically Pereira and Baraka could be dethroned by either Republican candidates or those petitioning onto the ballot, for instance traditional Democrats running as independents supported by the party. Democrats Tom Mulligan and Leticia Colon are also up for reelection this year.
If this winter does not enjoy a January thaw do not despair, the heated exchanges at BOE meetings will more than make up.