Pereira Blasts Board Of Education Selection

From school board member Maria Pereira:

Mayor Ganim and his cohort of Bridgeport Board of Education Members, Chair John Weldon, Vice-chair Jessica Martinez, Hernan Illingworth, Christopher Taylor, and Sybil Allen, strike again!

Senator Dennis Bradley, the school board member with the worst attendance, resigned on February 15, 2019. This triggered a 30 day period for the remaining eight school board members to fill the vacancy.

Dennis Bradley, who asserted he was both Black & Hispanic, was the only Black male school board member prior to submitting his resignation. In fact, we now have a Males of Color Adhoc Committee focused on addressing the issues male students of color face including racism, the school to prison pipeline, disproportionately being labeled special education, disciplined, suspended or expelled, yet this important committee is being chaired by a White male school board member.

As of March 1, 2019, the Bridgeport Public Schools (BPS) student demographics were 13% White, 34% Black & 48% Hispanic, yet our school board was, 13% Black, 25% Hispanic and 63% White with 50% of our school board being comprised of White males when only 13% of our male student population is White. The 2010 Census shows Bridgeport’s population was 22% White, 35% Black and 38% Hispanic. This demonstrates a significant disparity between the makeup of the Bridgeport Board of Education when compared to the student and resident population of Bridgeport.

There is a national, state and local debate regarding the importance of a representative Democracy reflecting the very community and constituents it serves. There was recently a Bill introduced in the CT Legislature requiring Juries to be racially diverse, which I absolutely support.

We had six applicants that applied to fill this critical vacancy.  All six were male. Four were White, one stated he was both Black & Hispanic, and one was Black.

Lamar Kennedy was born and raised in Bridgeport and graduated from both High Horizons and Central High School. He has lived in the East End of Bridgeport his entire life, a community where young Black & Hispanic men face crime, drugs, and significant poverty. Kennedy used to work for the Bridgeport Public Schools and was inspired to further his education to become a certified special education teacher. Kennedy is currently employed by the Waterbury Public Schools and also coaches both the basketball and football team. Kennedy shared he was offered a position at Warren Harding High School mid-year last year, just blocks from his own home, however he declined the position because he could not leave his special ed. students and the students on the athletic teams he coaches mid-year. His decision wasn’t based on what was best for him. His decision was based on what was best for his students. Pretty impressive, right?

Kennedy shared his compelling story about being a Black male student, father, and teacher and highlighted the success of his Black & Hispanic son who graduated from Fairchild Wheeler High School last year and who is currently attending college. Lamar Kennedy was a highly qualified candidate as a minority, urban educator, coach, and a lifelong Bridgeport resident with a point of view and perspective desperately needed on the Bridgeport Board of Education. However, none of that mattered.

You see, Mayor Ganim had already ensured his Board of Education Members were all lined up to vote for his hand-picked candidate, Joseph Lombard. Lombard is a White male who resides in the North End who has no experience with the Bridgeport Public Schools as a student, father, volunteer or educator. Even more disturbing; he is currently employed and has served as a Financial Aid Counselor with Porter & Chester Institute located in Stratford, CT. Porter & Chester Institute has a well-documented history of predatory lending practices in which they charge exorbitant fees and interest rates often leaving their students with massive debt with little to show for it.

The election was so rigged, that Chris Taylor, a White male school board member who missed every candidate interview and arrived late, participated in the vote to fill the vacancy, and left right after the election was completed. The vote was 5 to 3 in favor of Joseph Lombard.

Our current school board make-up is now 11% Black, 22% Hispanic, and 67% White, including five White males which in no way reflect our student body or 2010 Census population.

Joseph Lombard wasn’t elected because he was the most qualified or best candidate. He was elected because he will do exactly as Mayor Ganim and his henchmen direct him to do. Independent thought is something Mayor Ganim, Chair John Weldon, and the corrupt Democratic Machine cannot and will not tolerate.

Is it enough to just select a school board member based on race, ethnicity and/or gender? No, it is not. Not only must our school board reflect diversity in race, ethnicity and gender; it must have intelligent, articulate members well versed in national, state and local education policy. And, maybe most importantly it must reflect diversity of thought. If every school board member had the exact same position on every issue you wouldn’t need nine school board members. You would only need one.

Urban, minority educator and life-long Bridgeport resident, Lamar Kennedy, was the best candidate for the job, however Mayor Ganim’s only qualifications were that the candidate report for duty, follow orders, and demonstrate no diversity of thought.

I hope you agree, that our 20,400 students, 30,000 parents, 2,700 school employees, and the entire Bridgeport community deserved better. However, the minority community, that Mayor Ganim relied on so heavily to be elected Mayor in 2015, should be especially outraged.

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8 comments

  1. Maria’s description of how this board is controlled is, I am sure, on point. It’s hard to believe that Bridgeport’s citizens are so deceived by those in power who care nothing about making things better. This is a great example of a good ole boy club. When and how will it ever change?! Maria- your comment about not allowing independent thought hits the nail on the head. My question to all is this: can a common council member or group of members make any difference if some got together to do the right thing? It seems that they stay silent on many issues. Certain issues where a few council members were helped by Judge Lopez have been exposed and I guess are being corrected but in general what else is being done for the good of the people? Where are some (certainly not all) of the Newer members who I thought ran to make a difference? At least I thought that’s why they ran! Do they need a lesson on how to access the media and bring issues to the front of the newscast and headline or does everyone have to wait for entities such as the FBI to do it for them? Another question for all: are there any city appointed groups that are not tainted by the disease of corruption? The lawyers who are employed by the City are tainted. Liskov is a fine example if one witnesses his antics in collusion with certain zoning board members. OPED is tainted fur the same and other reasons. Maria’s description of the school board shows the same thing and one only needs to examine certain council members affiliations to see exactly the same problems. How about the police commission? Everything good over there? Public works? Need I go on? I think that council members who are independent would be the only hope. Will they care enough to figure it out? More to come.

  2. Nothing can or will change until that 34% of parents that are Black fill the meetings of the BBOE and make their disdain known. Fighting for the education of our children also means going to these meetings to see if the white people that are calling the shots for your children’s education are doing so with the best interest your children at heart.
    The fact is that the white people that are calling the shots on behalf of your children’s education depend upon you not coming to these meetings so that they can continue do what’s best for their agenda not yours.

  3. “Joseph Lombard wasn’t elected because he was the most qualified or best candidate. He was elected because he will do exactly as Mayor Ganim and his henchmen direct him to do. Independent thought is something Mayor Ganim, Chair John Weldon, and the corrupt Democratic Machine cannot and will not tolerate.”

    Well said. I think at least part of the time the crusty white males are apathetic to the education of the city’s children.

  4. Not only was Mr. Lombard a poor choice because of the diversity issue, his employment with Porter & Chester institute is insulting to our students and families.

    Google Preadatory Lendee Porter and Chester Institue. The comments posted by those that actually attended are appaling.

  5. *** Appointing 1-independent member will not make much of a difference on a BOE that’s this dysfunctional, sorry to say. The entire present board should be disbanded & then maybe, a complete new State Educational Independent board can be picked. It certainly can’t be any worst than what the city has now, no? ***

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