UPDATE, includes decision: Norm Pattis, the attorney representing two elected Board of Education members opposed to the state takeover of city schools, first announced the news: “State Supremes just ruled. Takeover illegal. Special election ordered.” In a 6 to 1 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court has ordered a special election to be set at the direction of the trial court. Members of the reconstituted board will continue to serve until the results of the special election are certified by the Town Clerk’s Office, according to the Supremes.
Ruling from the Supremes:
“Because not all former local board members can be reinstated at this time, as some of their terms of office have expired, and because a local board must continue to function until a new local board can be elected, we stay the effect of our decision pending final certification of the special election results by the town clerk.
“Therefore, the trial court shall direct that the seven current members of the reconstituted board remain in office until the special election has been completed. At that time, the trial court shall reinstate the five members of the local board whose terms of office have not expired, to serve along with the four newly elected members.”
The entire decision: here.
Justice Palmer, in dissenting opinion, calls ruling a bogey: here.
A special election would be called presumably by the Registrar’s Office, at the direction of the trial court. Political parties would endorse candidates and then challenge candidates could petition their way on the ballot. The City Charter states that the City Council shall call a special election for mayor between 120-150 days when a vacancy occurs. A reading of the City Charter, however, regarding BOE members states only this:
(a) The board of education of the city of Bridgeport shall consist of nine members who shall be electors of the city of Bridgeport and who shall be elected to serve for a term of four years, from the first day of December next succeeding their election.
(b) At the election to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, 1993, and quadrennially thereafter there shall be elected five members of said board. Each political party entitled to nominate candidates for election to said board shall nominate three persons and the five persons receiving the highest number of votes at such election shall be elected. Each elector may vote for any three of the candidates nominated for such office.
(c) At the election to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, 1995, and quadrennially thereafter there shall be elected four members of aid board. Each political party entitled to nominate candidates for election to said board shall nominate three persons and the four persons receiving the highest number of votes at such election shall be elected. Each elector may vote for any three of the candidates nominated for such office.
(d) If a vacancy arises for any reason in the membership of the Board of Education, the remaining members shall elect a new member to serve for the balance of the term vacated. The person so elected shall be a resident and elector and a member of the same political party as the member vacating such office.
The board of education shall have all the powers vested in, and shall perform all the duties imposed, boards of education under the laws of this state and the United States.
The four school board members whose terms expired in November, Barbara Bellinger, Delores Fuller, Nereyda Robles and Thomas Cunningham, voted to ask the state Board of Education to dissolve the local elected board in favor of an appointed body.
Statement from Mayor Finch:
“As I said when I spoke to the state Board of Education last July in support of state intervention, ‘Our school system is at a critical crossroads. It is time that we remove the politics from our children’s education, address our schools’ challenges head-on and begin to pursue a long-term solution to improving our schools.’ It is clear that the status quo is unacceptable. I agree with Justice Palmer that today’s decision, a narrow and technical ruling, is a setback to the school children of Bridgeport. However, I remain committed to work with the Governor, the Legislature, our new Superintendent and the existing board to help give Bridgeport kids a better education.
“Every decision we make should be about our children’s future.”
Statement from Governor Malloy’s chief legal counsel Andrew McDonald:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is disappointing and has the potential to seriously disrupt the educational opportunities of Bridgeport’s schoolchildren this year. We are reviewing the implications of this decision and intend to discuss further legal and legislative options with state and local officials in the very near future. Our goal has always been to create a stable, productive and educationally sound environment for a chronically struggling school district. Our focus will not change.”
Statement from Bridgeport Republican Town Committee:
The Bridgeport Republican Town Committee would like to take this opportunity to applaud the State Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the unlawful disbanding of the Board of Education. We consider this a victory for democracy. The future of our children’s education will once again be in the hands of Bridgeport’s voters.
We are not suggesting that the previous board was an effective body, however, the process to reform the situation must be legally and ethically executed. There is currently a city charter revision committee in place which will give Bridgeport voters the ability to put a revised city charter to a vote . We must utilize this proper conduit to create a system that will benefit Bridgeport’s voters and more importantly its children.