Monday night’s Board of Education agenda, the first of the new school year, included this item: “Possible action on superintendent and all other appropriate Bridgeport Public School District employees to execute all grant application documents and all other paperwork and correspondence necessary for the District to partner with the City of Bridgeport’s Lighthouse Program in its pending fiscal Year 2017-2018 applications with the CT Dep. Of Education for State after school Grants and all future applications; and to authorize empower and direct the Board Chair to execute all such paperwork in lieu of superintendent and any other employees in the event that they do not act promptly.”
The final declaration “and to authorize empower and direct the Board Chair to execute all such paperwork in lieu of superintendent and any other employees in the event that they do not act promptly” snared the attention of retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez who has provided a check on dubious government policy be it Downtown parking meters, election procedure or school board power.
A faction on the school board is at odds with the role of the city’s afterschool Lighthouse Program that serves 23 schools with a majority of the costs absorbed by the cash-strapped school system. The controlling voting bloc on the school board including Chair Joe Larcheveque, who’s not seeking reelection in November, and attorney Dennis Bradley has high praise for the program. Competing grant applications for afterschool programs have also come into question with concerns expressed by Superintendent of Schools Aresta Johnson. For more on that see here.
In public remarks before the school board, Lopez hammered home a point, don’t usurp the authority of Johnson, you’re channeling dangerous legal waters. An excerpt from her remarks:
I am here this evening because of an item on your agenda appears to be in conflict with this board’s confidence in the superintendent of schools and with state law.
The item to which I make reference is item #13 under new business.
According to the description on the agenda, this proposed action attempts to micromanage the executive functions given by statute to the superintendent of schools.
Furthermore, and even more significantly, this action attempts to empower the chairman of this BOE, to act in the capacity of a superintendent of schools. This is contrary to law.
Many on this board were critical of attempts to micromanage the prior superintendent of schools.
With this resolution, you would be taking micromanagement to a new level. Something never intended during the superintendency of Frances Rabinowitz.
The academic qualifications that a superintendent must meet in order to be elected to this position are substantial.
Without any intended offense, no one on this BOE possesses these qualifications.
Bridgeport desperately needs a superintendent capable of performing the duties of her office unencumbered by political agenda and micromanagement. This resolution must be viewed through the prism of partisan politics, rather than as an attempt to serve the school children of this district.
Political gamesmanship must pay no role whatsoever in the education of our children.
I implore you not to tie the hands of the superintendent of schools for what are obviously political reasons.
Following Lopez’s remarks Bradley modified his motion deleting the language in question given Lopez’s concerns about board members lacking the academic qualifications or experience to execute school board grant applications in lieu of the superintendent.
Come November, with some members leaving, new ones coming aboard, the school board will have a new makeup. And Carmen Lopez continuing to provide pols some pause.