It was quite a Monday night, the first full meeting of the new school year, for the Board of Education, with chair Dennis Bradley and member Maria Pereira engaged in a shouting match as Associate City Attorney Mark Anastasi yelled from a lectern in Geraldine Johnson School. One issue that had the fur flying was “Discussion & Possible Action on Removal of Mayoral BOE Appointee,” a reference to Mayor Joe Ganim’s appointment of Annette Segarra to fill the vacancy of Dave Hennessey that is expected to be challenged in court. What follows is Pereira’s account of the evening as requested by OIB. Another point of view can be found at Education Bridgeport here hosted by Megan DeSombre who filmed the footage above. Feel free to pull out your fight scorecard and let us know the result.
Maria Pereira commentary:
It was a packed house Monday night as kindergarten paraprofessionals, teachers, parents, students, and staff came out to protest the elimination of every kindergarten paraprofessional in the BPS.
There was a lengthy line of those waiting to sign-up for Public Comment. I spoke with the staff member who organized the large turnout and asked for her support to allow me to speak first so that I could lay the foundation regarding the work the majority of BOE members have completed by meeting with parents regarding changing the distance to receive bus transportation from 1.0 to 1.5 miles. This would save $1.6 million that would be used to reestablish the majority of kindergarten paraprofessionals although $2.1 million is needed to reestablish every position.
I requested a public school parent to sign me up before the sign-up line even formed. Apparently she wanted to also sign-up a disabled speaker and disabled parent who could not stand in a long line. A former Home School Coordinator complained to Dennis Bradley, therefore he announced each person could only sign up themselves and no one else although Board policy does not prohibit this in any way, shape or form. As he walked back to his seat I explained that no such policy existed and that those who were elderly/disabled could not stand in lengthy lines and that the sign-up sheet is pulled at 6:25, therefore if you work in Stamford or Norwalk you would never make it in time to sign up. I explained that even in the legislature no such rule existed and that I myself have signed up multiple speakers in Hartford. I reminded him he has no authority to create or amend BOE policy and he is not a King. He was adamant he had the right to do so.
He repeatedly did everything in his power not to recognize me, repeatedly interrupted me when he had granted me the floor, slammed his gavel, etc. He looked ridiculous.
He repeatedly had difficulty running an organized meeting and did not understand Robert’s Rules of Order regarding an amendment and it took several of us to finally get him to comprehend the process.
I noticed City Attorney Chris Meyer and Associate City Attorney Mark Anastasi sitting in a back row although only the Board can request their presence regarding a matter under the Board’s purview. I knew they were there for the agenda item “Discussion & Possible Action on Removal of Mayoral BOE Appointee.”
Chris Meyer left early, however Mark Anastasi stayed and moved closer and closer to the podium as the agenda item in question approached. Dennis Bradley moved to this agenda item and Mark Anastasi started to approach the podium.
I asked Bradley why a member of the City Attorney’s office was present when the “Board” had not requested their presence. He stated that Anastasi was just a member of the public and as Chair he was going to recognize him to speak. I retorted you have no authority to allow a member of the City Attorney to speak on a BOE Agenda item, only the Board may do so. Ben Walker also chimed in and asked Bradley to reference the BOE Policy which supported his position, and that as a Board member he had no recollection of voting to request a member of the City Attorney’s office make a presentation on any agenda item.
As I was referencing the Board Policy he interrupted me, said he was refusing to recognize me, and that he was going to recognize Mark Anastasi as he repeatedly pounded his gavel. I reiterated that Mark Anastasi would not be allowed to speak and the majority of the Board had no interest in listening to a “party hack” whose job was to formulate any opinion that supported the mayor’s position.
I referenced how he issued an “opinion” that Mayor Ganim’s cellphone records did not have to be released when he was being investigated for corruption, and it was ruled that Mayor Ganim had to release his cellphone records.
I referenced his “opinion” regarding the illegal takeover of the BPS and he was trounced in the CT Supreme Court ruling.
I referenced that he was going to lose on his mayoral appointee as well.
Bradley said I am going to move on and I reminded him that he could not close debate unless a motion to move the question was made and passed by a two-thirds vote. He stated he was moving on, therefore I appealed the ruling of the chair which was seconded. We were both yelling at this point and he said he was overruling my challenge which he cannot do. I reminded him an appeal is debatable, therefore a motion must be made to move the question and passed by two-thirds, and then the body had to vote to uphold or overturn his ruling. He continued to pound his gavel and said he didn’t care.
I repeated that no one wanted to hear from Mark Anastasi as the automatic timer went off at 10:00 PM and the lights went out as we continued to argue in the dark. Within seconds the lights were back on and Mark Anastasi started yelling from the podium that he had nothing to do with the opinion on Ganim’s cellphone records. I just laughed at him and reiterated he would not be allowed to speak on the matter.
He yelled from the podium “that’s why you lost!” and then stormed out as I stated “I won 11 out of 12, Mark. We know you cannot say the same.”
Bradley continued to pound his gavel as he loudly made a motion to adjourn. I told him “you cannot adjourn a meeting when there is a main motion on the floor,” and he said “I am adjourning the meeting anyway” where at this point the meeting had completely disintegrated and everyone started gathering their belongings and exiting.
Bradley yelled out some absurd comments about my loss and I responded that “I got more votes than you in every school we ran on the ballot together. And you lost by 130 votes and Ed won T Hooker School by 133 votes, and I got Ed every AB in JFK, Hallen, THooker, and Read School. It gives me great pleasure to know I was critical to your defeat, but you can in no way claim the same.”
The BOE was discussing a motion to approve having our law firm file a lawsuit against Mayor Ganim for illegally appointing a BOE member, and Bradley thought it appropriate to allow the very City Attorney that would defend Mayor Ganim in this lawsuit to give the Board advice on the matter.
Dennis Bradley is either incompetent, an idiot, or a scumbag. But why should any of us have to choose? I am voting for all three!