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School Board Boycott Ends (For Now) ‘One Day At A Time’

October 5th, 2016 · 26 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Education, News and Events

school board

School board meets in City Hall.

Toot the trumpets. Sound the sirens. Bang the bells. The Board of Education conducted a meeting with a quorum Tuesday, albeit a special meeting, to approve a class trip to Brazil for seniors at the Fairchild Wheeler Magnet School, weeks after four school board members vowed a boycott until irrepressible board member Maria Pereira resigns. Well, Pereira’s not resigning, but a meeting with a quorum took place that included three former boycotters; Chair Dennis Bradley, Joe Larcheveque and Annette Segarra-Negron with the newest member Rafael Fonseca, appointed by Mayor Joe Ganim to fill the vacancy of Andre Baker, attending the session.

Pereira, Ben Walker, Howard Gardner and Sauda Baraka also attended. Kevin McSpirit was the lone missing board member. The vote to approve the trip was 7-1 with Pereira in opposition. Overall the interplay among quarreling board members was respectful.

Why the change of heart? Segarra-Negron said she decided to attend because it was a special session addressing one item. “We’ll take it one day at a time about future meetings.”

After the meeting Bradley echoed the remarks, “One day at a time.”

On September 12 members Bradley, Larcheveque, McSpirit and  Segarra-Negron announced “we as a group have agreed that we will no longer regularly attend Board of Education meetings until such time as Ms. Pereira resigns her position,” charging dysfunction on the board and “harassment” by Pereira who recently filed a lawsuit in Superior Court challenging Ganim’s authority to appoint Segarra-Negron to fill the vacancy of Dave Hennessey.

Rumors also abound that McSpirit, citing frustration with the process, will resign from the board.

Bradley, students

School board chair Dennis Bradley poses with two city students heading to Brazil.

Regarding board action Tuesday, the two-week trip, financed completely by a federal grant, is to a forest area in the Amazon in November with stops at a research station and several cities along the river system by boat. School professionals addressed risk management concerns stressing that the trip is safe and will include medical personnel and a forestry management chaperon. They addressed risks and precautions regarding the Zika virus reassuring the area is not a high risk. The idea is to learn about eco systems, bio-tech research and cultural enrichment, including scientific experiments conducted by students. The trip is part of an exchange program with Brazilian students.

Portuguese-speaking students will be included in the trip. Students must be cleared medically for the trip. The flight will be via an American carrier with a connection from Florida.

Walker, a music teacher who works in the Greenwich system, has traveled on international trips with students. He pressed questions about safety concerns and was satisfied with responses.

Pereira expressed student safety concerns about the drug trade in one of the cities, Belem, on the northeastern coast of Brazil. “I am concerned about physical safety and health aspects. I love the idea about world experience, but there is so much at risk for me and I’m not comfortable with this.”

The board required fingerprinting and background checks on chaperoning adults attending the trip.

Gardner said if we live our lives in fear we will never be able to fulfill life experiences.

A student made a passionate appeal to the board for trip approval.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting is set for October 11. A quorum requires five in attendance.

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • Frank Gyure

    And PEACE reigns in the land called Bridgeport.

    • Dave Gordon

      Folks, don’t get too excited. The four showed up only because they were “forced to.” A field trip to Brazil was paid for and they had to go. Nothing more, nothing less. As soon as the meeting adjourned the four and Rabinowitz and Terry Carrol “jetted” and didn’t look back. The 6pm meeting was Ms. Baraka’s subcommittee, facilities and operations. On the agenda was item “bullying.” D Young, director of social work didn’t show as expected. The report stated only seven schools in the district reported any incidents of bullying. Yes, can you believe that?!!! With gangs and drugs embedded in every middle school and high school in Bridgeport, this report is outrageous. Violence is taking place EVERY day in all the schools. Fights are rampant. I can testify to that. It stays unreported. I have been told by insiders that students dropping out are not recorded as “dropouts,” but are ID’ed as another category. There is so much deception going on and this is orchestrated by you know whom, interim sup. The CHARADE” continues!!!
      The 21,000 students in the Bridgeport schools are expendable thanks to one person!

      • Maria Pereira

        Just to be clear, the concern regarding Brazil is it is one of the top 20 countries in the World for murder driven mainly by the significant heroin trade. Some have nicknamed it the “Murder Capital of the World.”

        Belem has 34 murders for every 100,000 residents. To put that in perspective, Bridgeport has 140,000 residents and experienced 12 murders LY. Kidnappings for ransom, especially of Americans is commonplace. Domestic Violence, and Gang Violence are also prevalent in Brazil.

        Zika came to the prominence due to the widespread occurrences in Brazil which causes significant birth defects. There was only one BOE employee chaperoning and four additional chaperones who were affiliated with the grant. No one had even thought to ensure these four chaperones had to be fingerprinted, have a background check completed, and pass. Although the BOE employee speaks Spanish, none of the chaperones speak Portuguese.

        These eight students and five chaperones will be traveling by boat from Belem into the Amazon for 16 hours with a nurse on the boat.

        One of the students had a potential immigration issue that could keep him/her from entering back into the U.S. and one of the presenters stated the student had researched it. I was like we cannot take the word of a 16/17 year old student.

        There were just too many health, safety, and litigation risks for our students, staff, and the BOE.

    • Maria Pereira

      Interim Superintendent Rabinowitz just emailed us a one and a half page resignation letter effective December 30th.

      A significant portion of her resignation letter attacked and blamed me. How very professional of her.

      All I can say is I am pleased with her decision.

      Onward and upward.

  • Joseph Sokolovic

    Yet the committee meeting that followed only had three board members and a “committee of one.” Rabinowitz and Staff did not show once again even in the presence of a board quorum. Let’s see what happens at the committee and at the next regular board meeting.

    • Maria Pereira

      Right, Joseph. The Special Meeting was immediately followed by a Facilities/School Safety Committee Meeting. Bradley has never attended a single one, but being the slimy politician he is, he snapped this photo with two innocent students then rushed out the door.

      Segarra has never attended a single committee meeting and immediately left. Larcheveque and Fonseca also left and did not stay for the committee meeting.

      Rabinowitz left and failed to provide a single staff member and both John Ricci and Lieutenant Grech did not attend either.

      Who were the four BOE members who stayed and did as much work as they could? Well, of course it was Baraka, Gardner, Walker and myself.

      • Joseph Sokolovic

        Any idea if there will be a quorum for Wednesday’s special meeting?

        • Booty

          That shouldn’t be a problem. With Fonseca who isn’t boycotting, Pereira, Walker, Baraka and Gardner make five. But seeing as the others can’t stop the meeting by their absence, they are sure to attend (except probably for McSpirit again). It would be “dangerous” for them to skip a meeting where the “committed four” would be in the majority and could pass anything they wanted!

          • Maria Pereira

            Booty is 100% right in his/her assessment.

            Having to attend the meeting must have been a difficult pill to swallow for Bradley, Larcheveque and Negron.

            As Lennie stated in a previous story; they ended up with “egg on their faces.”

        • Maria Pereira

          I believe we will have a quorum. Meeting because of the trip had nothing to do with having a quorum. The deadline for the trip approval had passed during the boycott and an extension was requested.

          The only reason Bradley, Larcheveque and Negron attended was because Fonseca had to agree to break the boycott by attending meetings as a condition of his appointment by Ganim.

          Bradley, Larcheveque, Negron and McSpirit either attend or it will be Baraka, Gardner, Walker and myself versus Fonseca, which forces their attendance.

          I have to keep track of every main motion that passes or fails based on either/both Negron and Fonseca’s votes because we have requested Judge Bellis rule their votes not be counted.

          If the main motion passes or fails without counting their votes, as such was the case tonight, then there is nothing to bring before Judge Bellis. In other words their votes were not the deciding factor.

  • Maria Pereira

    We have a “Status Conference” before Judge Bellis at 9:00am on Thursday, October 6, 2016 in the Superior Court on Main Street.

    Please feel free to attend.

    As of this morning, Annette Segarra-Negron had not filed an appearance, which was done purposefully so she can claim she needs more time, which was expected. Judge Bellis indicated if her appearance was filed in a timely manner, all parties could submit their briefs and she would hold an actual Hearing on Thursday, October 6, 2016, and issue a ruling from the Bench instead of waiting up to three months, therefore the opposition did the complete opposite to stall for time.

    We will have a Hearing on October 18th. All we need is a bit of patience.

    If Bellis rules Annette Segarra-Negron was appointed illegally then that clearly means Raphael Fonseca was appointed illegally and off the board they go.

  • Joseph Sokolovic

    Actually rereading this post and correct me if I’m wrong, the vote was actually 6 yeas 1 nay and one abstention. The abstaining member was Ms. Segarra-Negron and was only one of two words she uttered at the meeting. The second word was also “abstain.”

  • Maria Pereira

    Joseph, Negron abstained on the motion to amend, not the main motion which was allowing the students to go on the trip. The amendment was to add five caveats that must be adhered to as part of the condition to approve the trip.

    On the main motion she remained silent, however if a member does not vote nay or abstain, their silence counts as a yea.

  • Marshall Marcus

    “concerns about the drug trade in one of the cities, Belem, on the northeastern coast of Brazil.”

    SO, who gets the “F” in geography? The author of this story, the BOE or the school system?

    I’ve been to Belem. It lies approx 100 KM up river from the Atlantic Coast. That’s about the same distance as Springfield, Massachusetts from New Haven Harbor. No one with any geographical sense would call Springfield a ‘coastal’ city.

    I think this trip is an exciting opportunity for the students at FW and should not be passed. Would it be nice if the school chaperone spoke Portuguese? Yes, but it is not an absolute requirement for this escorted tour group.

    Here in Trumbull, our BOE has banned all international school sponsored travel and our students miss out on great life experiences. These Bridgeport students are extremely lucky to be offered this invaluable experience.

  • Maria Pereira

    MM, I think the concept, experience and benefit is a wonderful opportunity for our students, however what I do not agree with is the location.

    • Marshall Marcus

      Maria,
      A trip to Brazil at this time would not be my first choice of a vacation (I’ve been there many times in the past). That said, to study the rain forest and its ecosystem one must go to the rain forest. In the Western Hemisphere that means the Amazon or Costa Rica. We have not been told there was a similar grant available for travel to Costa Rica. The public was not privy to all the details BOE members received. I am sure you diligently examined the situation before casting your vote. I do not fault you for voting no and explaining why you did so.
      I 100% agree wit you that a minor teen should not be the one to determine immigration eligibility. The question should have been handled by the legal dept., and an advance ruling from the Immigration authorities sought.

  • Donald Day

    Segarra-Negron said she decided to attend because it was a special session. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Ms. Segarra-Negron has never attended a meeting after being appointed or was it just one meeting?

    • Maria Pereira

      She attended our first Regular Meeting on August 22, 2016 and two special meetings. She has missed every committee meeting since she was appointed in late July.

  • Donald Day

    That’s what I thought. She hasn’t been to enough meetings to make an informed decision one way or another.

  • Greg Einig

    Is there a master list of the attendance of BOE members or does one have to check the individual meeting minutes?

  • Lisa Parziale

    There’s a subtle implication from Bradley the boycott could go back into effect. Who does he think he has left to boycott with? There’s a solid five who will not go there, four of whom never did. I have a feeling it’s going to be a lonely ride going forward, and Bradley’s taking it alone.

  • Frank Underwood

    The former Democratic-endorsed candidate for State Senate looks pretty baked in that photo. Do you even vape, bro?

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