Kate Rivera: School Board Chooses Secrecy Over Children–Urges State Ed Chief To Intervene

Kate Rivera, ex school board member.

UPDATE: Former Board of Education member Kate Rivera is urging Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona to intervene after the school board approved a three-year contract for Acting Superintendent of Schools Michael Testani at $244,000 per year. When the board hired Testani in an acting capacity last year his contract prohibited him from applying for the permanent position. His interim hiring also required a waiver from Cardona’s predecessor because he lacks superintendent certification that he is now pursuing.

We have a major problem in Bridgeport and I implore you to take action. Our Board voted to give a 3 year contract to Michael Testani, a politically connected and grossly under qualified candidate. He has no Superintendent certification, no degree in education and no experience running a school district let alone one that is criminally underfunded and struggling. Is this not illegal?

If you are not familiar with Monday evening’s events I wrote the following OpEd which gives the abridged version.

Will you revoke the waiver your predecessor gave? Is it even necessary to do that since it was a waiver for interim only?

I am not only a former BOE member and an educator myself but I am the mother of 4 Bridgeport Public School children. At the bare minimum our students deserve a qualified, experienced, certified, doctor of education as their Superintendent.

Please intervene on behalf of my kids, their 22,000 peers and our professional staff who are now under the “leadership” of a person who is less educated than they are!

Original story: Former Board of Education member Kate Rivera, in a commentary, takes aim at the clandestine maneuverings of the school board’s three-year appointment of Michael Testani as superintendent of schools.

Last night’s special meeting appears to be an egregious display of nepotism and corruption by the majority of the members of our Board of Education.

Last spring, the Board hired Mr. Testani, a nice guy and one of the least-qualified candidates for interim superintendent ever. Despite our BOE having 2 candidates of color possessing doctorates, state superintendent certifications and experience running school districts to choose from.

The candidate they chose then and last night under the secrecy of executive session to hire to lead our district for 3 years has NONE of those qualifications! None. Where, other than Bridgeport, can one be hired for a $244k a year position they are so grossly underqualified for??

I want the exorbitant tax dollars I pay to be spent on the very best for our children! Per Chairwoman Martinez’s comments in today’s CT Post, six months into the job Superintendent Testani has yet to have specific job goal expectations set by the BOE!

Can you imagine how having a Superintendent who is not trained in pedagogy, curriculum and education affects the morale of our professional teachers and staff? Will taxpayers incur the expense of hiring consultants to fulfill the basic skills of the superintendent position?

The Board promised the public last year that Mr. Testani would not be hired permanently per the interim contract and they voted to engage a firm for a nationwide search. We now know neither to be true. Why is the interim contract not being honored?

Last night’s meeting agenda did not mention hiring a Superintendent! It seems to have been scheduled and then held in executive session for 1-1/2 hours in order to eliminate transparency and public input. Normally, special meetings take place in room 305 at City Hall (not Aquaculture School on the West side) while a Council meeting is conducted simultaneously at City Hall. How absolutely disrespectful to our hardworking parents that the Board chose to go into executive session for 1-1/2 hours! Was this also a violation of FOIA?

Additionally, the Board even entertained waiving the residency requirement for Superintendent! Don’t we want someone who is invested in our community?? This entire process has been pushed through without transparency, public comment or common sense. What type of mental gymnastics are people doing to convince themselves that any of these actions are in the best interest of our kids??

The Board seems to have forgotten that they were elected to SERVE our children and to assist our dedicated, professional school staff in providing an excellent education to our scholars. Thank you to Joe Sokolovic and Bobbi Brown who used their voices, votes and conscience last night to fulfill their promises to advocate for our students amidst what was yet another appalling display of bad governance in Bridgeport.

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7 comments

    1. Like everything else that happens as a result of Bridgeport’s leadership I say again: you can’t make this shit up!!
      Wake up citizens!!
      There are few people in leadership positions whether elected or appointed that are in place to help the public. Be it salaries, benefits, connections for real estate purposes, getting their liquor stores open, it’s all for personal gain.

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  1. Strange comments and strange dialogue concerning a legally-precluded action by a rudderless-ship of a Bridgeport BOE… The script for this “special meeting” and its legally-precluded action could have been written by Kim Jong Un (or Donald Trump). Incredibly clumsy… (Indeed, stupid (!)…) This was an ill-conceived meeting/agenda/action embellished with contraindicated legal threats to free speech on a background of an appeal to “the people” “MY people” (who might they be?!) to ignore any discussion critical of the action by the Keystone-Cop-like BOE and its Kim Jong Un-like leader at an ill-conceived meeting with a clearly illegal agenda…

    Appalling! Another nail in Bridgeport’s coffin…

    This can only lead to another state-takeover of the Bridgeport school system, with the installation of another state-selected BOE and clueless, despotic, Bridgeport-ignorant, Lamont-selected replacement superintendent… (Maybe Malloy II will bring back Paul Vallas…)

    This abortion of an administrative coup will result in the up-ending of the political ambitions of any and all people that facilitated/cooperated with this meeting agenda (or are even “guilty” of just implicit, tacit approval) . There certainly couldn’t have been a competent lawyer’s advice involved in the decision to hold this meeting and execute its illegal agenda… This was Bridgeport-stupid breaking all previous records…

    Great way to start the New Year for Cirque de Bridgeport!

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  2. Kate, I accidentally just met the black female candidate who was over looked for the Superintendent position while shopping, I didn’t know who she was but see knew who I was. We talked for a few minutes and I shocked at what she told me, her background is so superior to the Testani but knowing the history of the BBOE I was not surprise. We get what we vote for but the black and brown students are the big losers.

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