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School Board Monday Night Fight Over Lighthouse Program

May 23rd, 2017 · 29 Comments · Education, News and Events

pic.twitter.com/G7ZfecJDuv
— linda lambeck (@lclambeck) May 23, 2017

If you’re bored with the Board of Education, it wasn’t so boring Monday night. The nine-member body got into quite an exchange over an eventual vote that failed to overturn a $500,000 rental fee charged to the city’s Lighthouse program for after school and summer programs that make use of school buildings. CT Post reporter Linda Conner Lambeck covered the meeting via updates on her Twitter page. Click the link above for video from her Twitter page.

In the video Associate City Attorney Mark Anastasi is escorted from the table by security after he tried to provide Chair Joe Larcheveque procedural advice with member Maria Pereira shouting for Anastasi to “Sit down!” Anastasi often shows up to school board meetings involving sticky issues even though some members such as Pereira declare he has no authority to provide members advice without board invitation.

Long-time Lighthouse Director Tammy Papa says she doesn’t have that kind of money in her budget for what she terms is a 24-year partnership with the school district although technically not an education program, according to board members who levied a rental fee.

The $500,000 rental fee was factored into the current Board of Education budget as well as for the new budget year starting July 1.

For background see here.

The board had previously voted to switch off the Lighthouse Program June 30th if payment was not made. It’s unclear at this point how the Lighthouse Program continues in lieu of coughing up payment.

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29 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    I thought the circus closed on Sunday night ? Guess not

  • Lisa Parziale

    When the organizational meeting for the BOE was held in City Hall, 3rd floor, Mark Anastasi did exactly what that video shows. I was in attendance and witnessed it. Since I engaged with Mark for about 12 of my twenty years on the council, I felt comfortable to tell him (quietly) to stay out of the Board’s business. He’s not the City Attorney, he’s not the attorney assigned to BOE business, he’s being used to act like a jerk because the present City Attorney doesn’t want to carry that baggage back into his private practice in a few years. Mark, however, seems to enjoy the drama and the feeling of being relevant again, plus, he can retire at any time with full pension so he has no reputation to maintain. He should be barred from interfering with Board business, he’s now a paid instigator and the Board members should take official action against this intrusion. This is one time they should all stick together! My comments have nothing to do with the subject matter of this section of the blog; they are exclusive to Mark Anastasi.

  • Jimfox

    Hamilton Burger.

  • Harvey Weintraub

    Lol..before even watching vid,I knew Maria had to be involved..

  • Maria Pereira

    LOL! Unlike you, I am an elected school board member who has the statutory responsibility to be “involved”.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Why is Maria the only one screaming?? I am watching this video over and over and all of the other members are composed. This video is not very flattering.

  • Maria Pereira

    I know, Steve. Obviously you could hear a pin drop besides me???

    Parents and community members in the audience were even yelling at him to sit down and yelling “your out of order”.

    We were in the middle of a debate when demoted attorney, Mark Anastasi, literally walked right up to to Joe Larcheveque to start guiding him and giving him advice. Clearly, Mark Anastasi felt Chair Larcheveque couldn’t handle chairing the meeting and was in dire need of his assistance.

    The entire room erupted. This is not the first time he has done this. Mark Anastasi is NOT a school board member. He has absolutely no right to interfere or interject himself into a school board meeting. He has been repeatedly been reprimanded for this conduct, including the Organizational Meeting in December which Lisa Parziale witnessed and described accurately.

    I will tell him to “sit down” every time he attempts to interfere in board debate or proceedings. Until he is elected to the school board, he is to keep his mouth closed and stay seated with the rest of the public in attendance.

    He has has the opportunity to sign up for his two minutes during public comment just like every other member of the public.

    • Steven Auerbach

      Can’t argue with you Maria. If he was out of line and out of place then his public humiliation was warranted! You should have just let security do their job!

      • Maria Pereira

        The video makes the former City Attorney look so pathetic as a school security guard is shooing him away like a pesky fly. Kudos to Linda Lambeck for recording it on her cellphone.

    • Michael Smith

      Okay — I am going to regret asking these questions but here goes;

      1. Ms. Pereira, is it not the chair’s role to control the meeting?

      2. Ms. Pereira, does not Robert’s Rules of Order instruct Board Members to direct their comments to the Chair by making a “Point of Order” rather than directing comments to the individual disrupting the regular order of the meeting?

      3. Ms. Pereira, do you think that it would put the Board “in a better light” if you simply ignored the out of order actions of Mr. Anastasi and let the chair and the security guards do their respective jobs rather than yelling at him?

      Thank you.

      • Maria Pereira

        Michael Smith, it is Joe Larcheveque’s role to “chair” the meeting, and that is the problem. When Mark Anastasi approached him to start giving him direction; he didn’t rule him out of order, he was listening to his direction.

        Mr. Larcheveque announced he was going to appoint a “parliamentarian” as per Robert’s Rules of Order. I assure you he was going to appoint Mark Anastasi. I read the board policy which clearly states that a board policy takes precedent over Robert’s Rules of Order. I then stated the powers of the Chair are enumerated in our bylaws, and it states that YOU are the parliamentarian. He looked dazed and moved on.

        A “Point of Order” was called and Joe Larcheveque continued to engage with Mark Anastasi. In fact, there were over 15 Points of Order called during Monday’s meeting.

        At one point, Dennis Bradley was making rulings and giving his perspective and I literally looked at Joe Larcheveque and asked him who is running this meeting? Is it you or Dennis Bradley? Joe Larcheveque doesn’t even realize by allowing Mark Anastasi to insert himself into our meetings and allowing Dennis Bradley consistently interject his rulings/decisions on the running of the meeting. Larcheveque looks incompetent and weak.

        Do you think if I was Chair that Mark Anastasi would EVER think to interject himself into a meeting I was running? I think every single person that reads OIB knows the answer to this particular question?

        The “Chair” was NOT doing his job by ruling him out-of-order, he was encouraging the outlandish behavior. In fact, shortly after this incident, he requested a recess. Both he and Dennis Bradley went to confer with Mark Anastasi separately.

        If you watch the video, Mark Anastasi was challenging the security guard and refusing to return to his seat in the audience. Once he finally begins to leave he turns to me to continue arguing.

        This has gone on for years. He has done it during the reign of Bellinger, Kelleher, Moales, Hennessey, Bradley and now Larcheveque. He tried it once when Sauda Baraka was chair. She shut him down and he NEVER tried it again.

        You are more than welcome.

        • Michael Smith

          It was not clear from the video that the Chair was engaging with Mr. Anastasi rather than asking him to take his seat. Thank you for clarifying.

          • Maria Pereira

            My pleasure. I think the video demonstrates that it only captures a portion of what occurred. It clearly does not show Mark Anastasi literally leave the audience to approach Joe Larcheveque in the middle of our debate.

            If you watch the video,Larcheveque does not start pounding his gavel until Mark Anastasi starts walking away and then turns to me to continue arguing.

  • Maria Pereira

    Last year, the BOE faced a $15,000,000 deficit, Although the Mayor & City Council passed the largest tax increase in Bridgeport’s history, they allocated ZERO additional dollars to the BOE causing us to make draconian cuts in staffing and programming that directly impacted our students.

    Charging Lighthouse fees has been debated since I joined the BOE in 2009, however they have been a “sacred cow” because Tammy Pappa is a Mario Testo loyalist who utilizes the Lighthouse Program as a slush fund for patronage jobs.

    From the first day we joined the board in December 2015, the BOE was already facing an over $4 million deficit for that school year, and an additional $15 deficit for this school year.

    As Chair, Dennis Bradley NEVER attended a single Finance Committee meeting and has still not done so as of today. As Vice-Chair, Larcheveque only attended one Finance Committee meeting because it directly proceeded a committee meeting he was holding that same night. The Finance Committee spent months making cuts with a focus of NOT touching the classrooms, however we still ended up eliminating every kindergarten paraprofessional in our entire district. The vast majority of cuts were in no way beneficial to students, parents, and staff.

    Neither Bradley nor Larcheveque offered a single cost saving measure, not one.

    We invited Tammy Pappa to two separate Finance Committee meetings. She told Howard she was out-of-town for one meeting and never responded to the second invitation, therefore we moved on without her.

    We had our facilities staff do a cost analysis regarding the Lighthouse Program. They utilized board policy and actual costs we were incurring. Their cost analysis demonstrated that if we billed the Lighthouse Program for every penny we were entitled to; they would owe us almost $3.5 million. The committee voted to charge the Lighthouse Program $500,000.

    When it moved to the full board in May 2016, Dennis Bradley, Dave Hennessey, Kevin McSpirit, Howard Gardner, Sauda Baraka, Ben Walker and myself voted in favor with Joe Larcheveque voting against it.

    The Lighthouse Program started in ten schools in 1993. It currently operates in 23 schools for 36 weeks per year. It also operates a summer program for six weeks in 18 of our schools, the majority of which is in air conditioned schools.In 24 years, the Lighthouse Program has not paid the BOE $1 for cooling, heating, WPCA, Aquarion, custodial, paper towels, hand-soap, toilet tissue, etc.

    I recently submitted a FOIA request to the SDOE and received the entire grant application which repeatedly referenced our Nutrition Center was supplying Lighthouse Program snacks and meals. I contacted the Director of Nutrition who informed me that we were losing about $4,500 per week providing the after school snack during the school year. This equates to an additional $160,000 cost the BOE is shouldering out of our Nutrition Budget.

    In addition, we are supplying breakfast and lunch to the 18 schools that hose their summer camp and are breaking even in costs. The vast majority of our schools have anywhere between 5 – 10 employees in the building during the summer, therefore the vast majority of the refuse being generated in these schools is being creating by the Lighthouse Program, however the City of Bridgeport is billing the BOE $386,000 to pick-up the refuse their city program is generating in our schools. The vast majority of WPCA & Aquarion costs in these 18 schools is due to the Lighthouse Program, however we are paying 100% of these utility costs.

    The 21st Century Grant has line items for lease costs, utilities, custodial, supplies, etc.

    The Lighthouse Program is a slush fund for Mayor Ganim and Mario Testo, Tammy Pappa gave herself a $15,000 raise several years ago, she collects almost $900,000 in parent fees which is not shown anywhere in the city budget, etc.

    I don’t care that Tammy Pappa is Mayor Ganim’s former girlfriend/partner, or that she is a Mario Testo loyalist who does his bidding, or that she is related to John Ricci through marriage. When we found out in March that she had not paid $1 of her $500,000 fee, and that she wrote our CFO that she had not budgeted for it and would not be paying it, Howard Gardner requested that she, Nestor and Ken Flatto ALL attend the next Finance Committee meeting. They ALL refused.

    The arrogance is palpable. You are using 23 of our school buildings for FREE, your presence is requested at a meeting so that the matter can be discussed, and you blatantly refuse.

    No sympathy here. Tammy Pappa & the City of Bridgeport need to pay their very reasonable bill.

  • Maria Pereira

    In March, Fonseca, Negron,Gardner, Baraka, Walker, and myself voted that if we did not receive the $500,000 payment by May 15th, the Lighthouse Program had to be out of our schools by June 30th.

    This gave the Tammy Pappa three months to find new locations for her summer camp and five months to find locations for her school year program. She did nothing to find locations because of her arrogance and Testo & Ganim telling her we will handle it.

    The Lighthouse Programs in New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, etc., are not operating in their schools. They are operating in community centers, churches, etc. which is the true intent of the program.

    Why did Fonseca introduce a resolution to “rescind” the vote of the full board held in May 2016? He wasn’t even on the board and he has also never attended a single Finance Committee meeting where we have been dealing with significant deficits. He did it because he wants the DTC endorsement for the school board and he has to do the bidding of Testo & Ganim to get it.

    Dennis Bradley voted for it in May 2016, however now he supported rescinding the vote. Remember, he voted to change the transportation distance in May 2016, but then voted against the formal policy change.

    Let’s be clear, Joe Larcheveque, John Weldon, Dennis Bradley, and Rafael Fonseca are bought and paid for by the Democratic powers that be. Larcheveque is a RHINO, “republican in name only”. What “true” Republican consults with Danny Roach, Mayor Ganim, and Mario Testo? Right, none.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Maria P. Your commentary seems to be thorough. I am not sure if it is necessary to add the background Drama of who is Friends with who or related. Most of us that read the blog know the relationships and the background drama.

    What I do not understand is why you are always standing alone on your soapbox? Why are other members of the board expressing the same concerns in the public square.

    I am not diminishing anything your wrote. I am wondering why you are the only one holding anyone accountable?

    Does Aresta Johnson have any connection with the lighthouse program or does that exist a completely different entity? The commentary was most informative. I think the BOE election is going to be a bloodbath! I have to remind you that only 2 years ago you were praising Joe Ganim , Mario Testa and John Ricci. How do you go back to your constituents and tell them the opposite now including Anthony and Nessa that you put in office?

    I only hope that the Bridgeport Academics improve. Our education is key to any major economic development.

    • Steven Auerbach

      “why are they not expressing their concerns in the public square”-

    • Maria Pereira

      Steve, if you attended our “public” Finance Committee and Regular Meetings you would hear Howard, Sauda, and Ben clearly express their views on the topic of Lighthouse. Just because they don’t blog doesn’t mean they aren’t voicing their opinions and views on the topic.

      Steve, are you taking hallucinogenics? Please post one comment where I have ever “praised” that little dwarf , Mario Testa?

      I didn’t say anything negative about John Ricci. Tammy Pappa is related to him through marriage. John is a close and loyal personal friend of Testo and a party loyalist.

      Joe Larcheveque is up for re-election. John Weldon, Annette Negron, and Rafael Fonseca are all up for “election”. Fonseca announced he was running for “re-election” to the BOE on their 138th District Watch Facebook Page. I thought how sad, he doesn’t even understand that he can’t be “re-elected” to the BOE because he was never “elected” in the first place.

  • Jimfox

    Maria, never stop fighting for our kids.
    Steve go fluck yourself!

  • John Marshall Lee

    Lighthouse is a “City of Bridgeport” program that is so historically connected to the Mayoral hierarchical umbilical that it surprisingly has no ‘board of directors’ to advise staff, review programs for substance and quality, and to build relationships that endure.

    As the Finch and now Ganim2 administrations have governed, they have practically ignored the Board of Education, fiscally, planning-wise except for new buildings, and in listed priorities for the families of Bridgeport. When Finch could not get his way with “Charter Reform” which meant appointing Board members, he lost interest in the schools and the often chaotic proceedings did not help public understanding of what was ongoing.

    But there have been Board, administration and staff members, professionals and otherwise who have been loyal to the concept that the youth must be better served. Time has been telling.

    Evidence is that the BOE has been so squeezed to fund its basic mission even with the outside support that sometimes arrives, that they have had to do very serious budget review. That entails priorities, looking for reasonable sources of revenue and cutting where it will do the least harm.
    Lighthouse has not been a partnership of a youth program with the schools. It is a free standing City department that fails to show its accurate revenue each year. I have talked about the missing $850,000 of revenue that does not show up in the City department budget review for several years. No answer from the City on that one.

    The grounds, buildings, and even the milk and cookies from Title I are resources of the BOE. If they and their expensive maintenance are shared with another City department, why isn’t it reasonable to factor in a RENTAL EXPENSE? Does City Finance look at any program costs without questioning the need and availability for location and expense by the program plan?

    Who has looked at Lighthouse budget in contrast to other similar after-school and summer programs? Anyone? Look at Burroughs/Wakeman for example. They pay for locations where their services are provided, have a similar after school and summer population, and operate with 60% of the expense from what I can see.

    Perhaps Lighthouse needs to go on a diet for non-priority expenses and substitute rental dollars for a realistic gut-check? Time will tell.

  • Bridgeport Rising

    I’ve said it before, Maria might be a little wild but she is informed and cares. I don’t always agree with her as I supported the state takeover the schools a few years ago. But I do agree with her that the kids in Bport are getting the shaft and she is one of the few that seems take her job seriously. The rest of the pols seem to view public service as a personal enrichment program.

  • Bob Walsh

    I don’t always agree with Maria but she is absolutely correct on this one.
    Mark was the same way with the City Council. He would but in and argue facts and ignore the rest of the council. Of course we did not have an independent person chairing the meeting so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted.
    Good for you, Maria!

  • Maria Pereira

    YUP, I’m wild and crazy, crazy like a fox. :)

  • Ron Mackey

    The video is proof why Hamilton Burger is NOT a private attorney. Think about his action, he doesn’t seek permission to speak, he just walked up started running his mouth. He was the City Attorney but now he has taken a step backwards and he works for the City Attorney, now who in their right mind would go backwards in their profession as a attorney? Hamilton Burger had the permission from Mayor Ganim to do exactly what he did. This act has been going on for as long as he has been in the City Attorney’s office. Hamilton. I mean Mark is a typical bully but once you stand your ground he goes off like a child who had his toys taken from him, he is the definition of a loser.

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