Pereira, Piranha, Pariah, Powerful

Is Maria Pereira a one-woman riot squad?
Does Maria Pereira’s power come from opponents?

Rock legend Joe Walsh chronicles his battle with sobriety in the song One Day At A Time. Late Tuesday afternoon was a sobering experience watching Board of Education members, even those often in heated opposition, get a long just fine with two former boycotters asserting they will take meetings “One day at a time.”

Respect was in the air as board members considered an application from Fairchild Wheeler Magnet School to organize a field trip to the Amazon region of Brazil and address risk management concerns. Every board member was professional, thoughtful, no raised voices. Every now and then meetings have melted down into flame-throwing insults between board Chair Dennis Bradley and urban warrior Maria Pereira.

“You’re a bully.”

“You’re a buffoon.”

And so it goes.

Watching on Tuesday, you’d never know the animosity. Bradley ran the meeting professionally, members got in their say. When you isolate the board members each has something to offer in an often thankless volunteer job that requires multiple hours per week setting policy in the school system of Connecticut’s most populous city and the myriad of issues in an urban area.

On Wednesday school chief Fran Rabinowitz resigned blaming Pereira’s discontent for her departure. Weeks ago four board members said they’d boycott meetings until Pereira resigns. Again, four boycotters because of one person? Why give all this credit to one?

Pereira, a relentless researcher in her school advocacy, crafts strong arguments; her critics say she’s nothing but a damaging demagogue throwing a grenade into school progress. Still, Pereira, be it piranha or pariah, is just one person baring her teeth at the establishment.

Three other board members who sometimes agree with her, Howard Gardner, Ben Walker and Sauda Baraka, did not vote with her when Pereira was the one dissenting vote to approve the field trip for eligible seniors.

Each of them asked questions calmly, some pointedly and necessarily to achieve assurance that professional staff had done its due diligence on behalf of student safety.

They didn’t demagogue, they didn’t posture, they simply did their job: Gardner, professorial and thoughtful; Walker, the music teacher conducting salient questions; Baraka, dignified in well-reasoned queries.

Incredibly, it appears that one person–Pereira–has gotten under the skin of four board members and now a petulant, if respected, superintendent who’s allowed Pereira to lance her standing.

Twenty years ago, Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa was engaged in a political holy war against State Rep. Chris Caruso. It was Mario’s cause to defeat Caruso in a primary with this candidate, that candidate, a batch of money and a blizzard of absentee ballots.

“We gotta teach him a lesson.”

“Teach Caruso a lesson? It ever occur to you you’re just building him up, making him bigger?”

Mario’s myopia clouded his reason. Caruso kicked his ass every time. It helped to propel him as a citywide candidate losing two razor-thin runs for mayor, notably in 2007 the favorite to defeat bleeding incumbent John Fabrizi until the political establishment threw him under the bus for State Senator Bill Finch who squeaked a primary win on his way to general election victory.

Pereira is difficult to ignore, she can be a fury. But treating her like a one-woman riot squad is a fallacy. Strategically it would be wiser to ignore her and try to build bridges with the others. Sometimes they’ll agree, sometimes they won’t. Yes, one day at a time.

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46 comments

  1. In deference to OIB regulars who have decided we must post names, this is Raymond Currytto. Too lazy to change my handle at the moment.

    I received John Marshall Lee’s public comments to the city council from a recent Monday night. He has a soul, he is not a political person who perhaps starts out with children in mind, gets on a board and then loses sight of the purpose of the board. It is great to hear the board members are using their inside voices, to borrow from pre-school. Keep it up. In fact possibly see if they would like to take the trip to the Amazon and parachute into the jungle, meet up with the research group and continue getting real on the way back to Bridgeport. I know there are a few of you on the board who are sane, sorry, just being a fly in the lovefest ointment.

    John Lee, the guy who reads the financial tea leaves when no one else can understand them, says there is a rather large surplus in the state funding to Bridgeport that should be put back into the school system, specifically to support new student with their reading skills, by putting the paraprofessionals back into the classrooms. Support the children, give them the resources and help to succeed, end the cycle of poverty of education by committing to the students first. How about an article extolling the powers of teachers greatly enhancing the early education successes of newly begun students in their educational paths, rather than having to feel mushy because grownups can conduct a meeting without potty-talk? My response to John is as follows, for the purpose of keeping priorities in mind:

    Hi John,
    Thank you for sharing this with me. I think you have a very solid question and argument. The question being is there in fact a surplus as shown in the financial reports. The argument being it is the city’s (moral and legal) responsibility to stop the cycle of neglect in the education of the youngest among us, who need our best efforts to give them a start at success in their educations. This at a time when the city is under public scrutiny for its perpetual political warring in the board of ed, and also after hearing from a judge who recently ruled the city is in some state of default in regard to education. In this light, the mayor and the council are showing disregard if not contempt for the findings of the court and of public opinion as regards inner city education. I think your question deserves some airing out in the press. It is an uphill battle as usual. The further question pertains to the public speaking portions of the council meetings. Do they listen? Or is there an inbred arrogance where the ritual of public speaking is tolerated, but dismissed, in one ear and out the other? I would say “time will tell,” but am happy to leave that tagline to you. I think your writing is clear as are the questions posed and the call for putting back the support in the schools. Nicely done. A healthy city with a soul must always put the children first.

    1. Pereira vs Ganim UPDATE:
      We had a “Status Conference” Thursday before Judge Bells at 9:00am.

      Upon arrival, my attorney Kevin Smith approached assistant city attorney Devlin. He asks him “have you seen Annette Segerra-Negron?” Devlin says “who’s that?” Smith and I just looked at each other. Smith states “she is the board member appointed by your client Mayor Ganim, the reason we filed the lawsuit that brings us here today. She is a defendant also.” Devlin responds with “she resigned.” I am not kidding. Smith states “I don’t believe so.” Devlin gets on his phone to make a call. Scary, right.

      Bellis repeatedly asks if all parties are present for Pereira vs Ganim. Finally, she asks Devlin and Smith to find out where Negron is.

      They reach her at her job and ask her if she is on her way to court. Negron filed a pro-se appearance which means she will represent herself in the lawsuit. She says she had no idea she has to be in court, and thought filing a pro-se appearance was just a form she filed. I am not kidding folks.

      They suggest Bellis may allow her to teleconference in, however she is at work and not available. I am not kidding folks.

      Smith and Devlin update Bellis near the bench. She looked quite animated, agitated and I could hear her saying can she be here at noon or two o’clock? If not, she will need to be here at 9:00am.

      Devlin and Smith call Negron back and share Bellis’ expectations. Negron asks “I have to be there?” Smith explains to her that he is my lawyer, Devlin is Mayor Ganim’s attorney, and you filed a pro-se appearance, therefore you are representing yourself in these proceedings, therefore you must appear in court for every court appearance. She says “I have to work. I can’t come to court.” I am not kidding folks.

      Negron because hyper and frantic and states “I am just going to resign.” No kidding folks.

      Devlin and Smith update Bellis. She asks for an update and they tell her Negron said she was going to resign. Smith told me Bellis’ mouth literally dropped open. She said out of everything I thought you were going to tell me I never thought that was going to be it. She stated “what is going on here?”

      Devlin called City Attorney Chris Meyer and Meyer said he was going to call Negron to try to convince her not to resign. Not kidding folks.

      This a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education who has attended four meetings since appointed in July 2016 and has only uttered “here” during roll call, “abstain. I don’t have enough information.” And, “abstain.”

      Please resign Ms. Negron, because you have an ABYSMAL attendance record, lack basic common sense, and have not offered a single point of view, opinion or substantive recommendation in over two months.

      I am not kidding folks.

      1. I forgot, the next hearing is on October 18th.

        Smith asked Negron if she intended to retain an attorney to represent her and she stated “I thought the City was going to get me an attorney.”

        Ms. Negron is not entitled to representation by either the Board or the City because we sued her based on her capacity as just Ms. Negron, not as BoE member Negron, which means she is responsible for her own legal fees.

      2. Maria, a question and an observation:
        First, what happens to the case if Negron resigns? You haven’t said if Fonseca is (yet?) a party to the case, and Bellis could potentially rule the matter in front of her is moot and dismiss it without a ruling on Ganim.

        And second, if Negron does resign, then that means there are only seven BoE members, or six if you don’t count Fonseca, which means quorum in either case would then be four. I don’t know if this is the case for the BBoE, but in many places anytime a quorum of a board is in one place and any discussion of board business occurs, that is considered a completely legal meeting regardless of whether/how the meeting was called.

        1. If Ms. Negron resigns we will simply amend the pleadings to bring in Fonseca. We would prefer not to. Attorney Smith also had a very creative idea he is pursuing.

          If there are only seven members a quorum would be four.

      3. When the walls come tumblin’ down
        When the walls come crumblin’ crumblin’
        When the walls come tumblin’ tumblin’ down

        Maria, did Mr. Fonseca ever pursue running for the BOE?

        1. No, he did not. In fact, when we advertised the vacancy and requested those interested in the vacancy needed to submit a letter of interest and resume, he expressed no interest and never submitted the requested information.

          Although he has at least shown up for his first two meetings, unlike Ms. Negron.

  2. Lennie, we share the same memories, and more importantly we understood the motives and agendas. The only thing that’s changed throughout the years have been the names and faces. Unfortunately, as one Mayor follows another, they feel compelled to use the same failed tactics from their predecessors, that’s why it’s so easy for us to read though them from the beginning. This BOE situation was so elementary and doomed to fail, Mario should realize his time has passed. Without the spoils he enjoyed in the past, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes inconsequential. Ganim’s not that dumb, I’m sure he realizes that already. Testa will hang in for this term as TC, and the minute he determines Ganim is not going for another term, he will announce he’s retiring.

        1. Ray, it’s not like that shit pizza Lennie eats, he pulls it out of the freezer into the microwave for five minutes and he thinks he’s eating Pepe’s with nice glass of Chianti!

          1. Although I’ve never seen Lennie try his hand at pizza (home ovens just aren’t hot enough to do it right), he has turned into quite the master chef in his old age. You should be so lucky to have him cook for you!

            (And I can personally attest there are no pizzas in his freezer, the top-shelf vodkas and gins are taking up all the available space.)

      1. Ray, I grew up around Grand St. with Jennie’s, Pic’s the Clam Box, and we thought only the uncool people called it pizza. I resisted for so long, and finally started saying pizza because people were looking at me strangely. You know, the uncool ones.

      2. Ray,
        This New Haven Jewish native eats ah-beatz (apizza). Preferably at Sally’s on Wooster Street.
        He also knows mozzarella is an extra. A real apizza comes with sauce and grated Romano cheese and is baked in a coal-fired oven. There is some acceptable pizza in greater Bridgeport, but a trip to New Haven is needed when the urge for Apizza strikes, along with a bottle of Foxon Park White Birch soda.

  3. Lisa, you’ve summed it up well but what’s sad is Joe knows better and he is allowing Mario to lead him down a rat hole.

    As for Chris Caruso, he is a true student of politics and nobody works harder than Chris. Chris has the temperament Mario never had plus Chris has the gift of speaking Mario never had. Chris had the ability to adjust as time changed and his criticism of others was not personal. These traits are something Maria Pereira needs to adopt.

    Lisa, one thing I just don’t understand is how most blacks who are involved in Bridgeport politics thought and think Mario is a friend to causes of blacks. Yeah, I know it’s about Mario’s gift bag but one would think at some point they would see what Mario is really about and that’s control and power and he would never share that with them or their community.

    1. Bro. Mackey,
      “The blacks” (Mario’s reference to the African American community) who pander to this Monroevian do it due to WIFM–What’s in it for Me. As long as a relative or two gets a temp summer job, or money miraculously shows up for AB operations, the folks stand in line to kiss the ring.

      As a community we have to get the blinders off. Living in a city with such a high percentage of melanin-rich individuals it’s time to see if one of us can be a better leader than what we have settled for. Let the Eastonites and Monroevians go back to the ‘burbs and meddle in their respective town’s politics.

      1. Eric, in the interest of full disclosure I think your post should have said, The Blacks and Puerto Ricans who pander to this Monroe-vain do it so to WIFM.

  4. Fran Rabinowitz’ assistant just emailed a cancellation notice to Ben Walker for Tuesday’s Regular Meeting requesting Ben sign it as secretary.

    We have a quorum of five of eight members and Ben Walker is refusing to sign it.

    Dennis Bradley and Fran Rabinowitz are an absolute disgrace.

    Don’t let these people EVER tell you it is about the kids.

    1. Maria, I just went to the BBOE website and saw meetings scheduled for Wed October 12, which is Yom Kippur, which seems to be a scheduling conflict. Don’t see a Tuesday meeting. Can you please clarify and please keep us informed about a Tuesday meeting? Will it happen/Agenda/when and where. Thank you.

      1. BBOE web just changed. 2:00 pm. Tuesday cancelled with Special Meeting on Wednesday October 12. Signed by Dennis Bradley. Agenda: Search for new Supervisor.

    1. I will update everyone on what happened in court today and what Bradley, Larcheveque and Rabinowitz are up to when I get back.

      I am headed to an important meeting with Success Village unit owners fed up with Angel Figueroa AND Tyreke Byrd.

  5. Keep up the good work, Ben.
    I simply don’t understand how the BOE is supposed to work. The superintendent’s assistant tells the board secretary to cancel the meeting?
    I guess this is being done to avoid the embarrassment of Dennis Bradley dropping his one day at a time mantra and going back to being a boycotter. Definitely not something a man would do.
    So Ben, if the meeting doesn’t happen then please schedule a special meeting to approve the selection of the search firm for a new superintendent. Let’s see how the boycotters respond to that.

  6. Lisa,
    Could you picture when we were on the council, even in the midst of the Ganim corruption investigation, you getting an email from a Ganim staffer telling you to cancel a City Council meeting? Man, times have changed.
    But you can be sure if that happened to Tommy Mac, meeting off for sure.

      1. Lisa, you and Bobby have been in the fight for a lot of years and have seen a lot of things, both good and bad. I say this to say your insights should not only be respected, but taken as an avenue for change.

  7. I hope the board shows up at the appointed time at the improperly cancelled meeting with a quorum of five. Ben Walker would serve as chair and they can work through the backlog of agenda items caused by the boycott. They can begin the search for a new superintendent and a replacement for Kevin McSpirit before the mayor gets a third appointment that has a tiny chance of being ruled valid.

  8. Funny how certain individuals think they are God, lol, it makes me chuckle, hehehe. For everyone’s information I have been again slandered with false allegations. It just so happens my community Success Village is being neglected with serious health issues that I had to step in and help. We are under a board that has been very negligent against members of this community, so now a certain individual got a hold of the information through my web page and decided to team up with the board and in a meeting of membership think they can do anything about it. I myself am getting rid of the board with the membership. This is a tactic to try to obtain votes in the biggest community in Bridgeport that supercedes any other in voting, but know this, I’m already ten steps ahead and trust me, it’s already being handled!

    1. So many claims you’ve made and lies you’ve told. Never once has any of it come to light. Meetings with the FBI. Videos of government corruption. Helping the people of Success, but no results. Just claims. In fact since you’ve rallied against the old board things have gotten much worse. Since your claims of corruption all you’ve gotten is served an order of protection against you. Stop fighting personal vendettas and try doing some actual good. The pied piper of Success Village leading the children to slaughter.

  9. Bridgeport school board in turmoil!
    Why?
    Easy answer here, folks! Maria resigns, perhaps a role on the Parents Advisory Committee. But never again on the Board. Way too undermining, contradicting and dysfunctional for that position. The children in the long run are better for long-term positive progressions.
    She’s like a bull in a China shop! And everything gets smashed and destroyed in the way. That’s Maria, and the kids are shattered pieces of glass all over the floor!
    Leave Maria and take your overzealous ego with undermining results with you at the “expense” of the kids, always! What true professional is going to walk into this mushfest!? Great job, Maria!

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