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Lopez To School Board: Don’t Micromanage Superintendent’s Work

August 30th, 2017 · 8 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Education, News and Events

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.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Bob Walsh

    Thank you Judge Lopez. A well thought out opinion.
    And another point is that if these two plans make it to the evaluation period the superintendent is either saying that the plan have equal merit and are both deserving or, more importantly, that the plan put forward by the city was not her choice but was forced upon her by the BOE.
    If that plan fails to make grade, will the BOE be forced to make good on all of the unfulfilled promises made?

  • Lisa Parziale

    Again, Judge Lopez to the rescue. Her vigilance involving questionable decisions, along with make-believe rules keep us feeling safe that someone is watching and willing to step in to challenge and advise. I recently caught a situation that was blatant and unfair regarding abuse by a candidate running for the City Council. Without her calm understanding of law, procedure and changes that should be initiated to existing statues, I was able to turn a wrong into a right. It was about fairness and principle and Judge Lopez to “the rescue again.” I must give kudos to Lennie whose exceptional investigating reporter skills are still alive and well. Long live “Judge Lopez.”

  • John Marshall Lee

    Does this mean that the five Board of Education members are well informed (in addition to giving “high praise”, Dennis Bradley) to the Lighthouse program? From whom do they derive their information on Lighthouse? From Lighthouse’s board? Remember that this City department has no board or commission of intelligent, independent citizens who are looking to provide adequate youth programing outside of the school day, namely after school and in summer.
    A program that spends in the range of $4-4.5 Million per year might need some public oversight, you think? And it might want some metrics to show that the after school homework assistance has helped that group of students to move ahead on their academic subjects, with proof, not just anecdotes. Anyone think that such evidence might lend itself to making the case for more funding from a foundation or the state? And what programs are present for high school age young people as we here more and more about the “school to prison pipeline”? Anyone?
    Let’s see, the School System and Lighthouse prepared and submitted competitive grants for the same age population? But they didn’t collaborate, inform each other of need, intent, etc. although there may be some number of teachers within the system who work for Lighthouse after the regular school day? Does this show the depth of knowledge and interest of the Mayor’s Office in the public school system at this moment? What does it say about where certain BOE members are showing support? To the Mayor’s Office or Lighthouse? Time will tell.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    The BOE ought to be taken over by the State Department of Education. That’s the only way the needs if the district’s students will be put first. The self-important fifty-cent generals are more interested in power and control, to the point that the board is bunged up in Superior Court by a bunch of frivolous lawsuits.

  • Ron Mackey

    Let me say this, I’ve never heard, known or seen anyone in my lifetime in Bridgeport who has the respect, courage and the moral authority to speak out clearly for the residents of Bridgeport like  retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez. Judge Lopez is our EF Hutton,  when EF Hutton talks, people listen.     

    https://youtu.be/2MXqb1a3Apg  

  • Frank Gyure

    I will say this. We are looking at a situation where the Bridgeport Board of Education and the entire Bridgeport Public School System will truly become worthless( puppets for Ganim/Testa).

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