The Spice Of Maria Pereira Leaving The School Board

Maria Pereira, who’s not seeking another four-year term to the Board of Education, certainly added zest to school board meetings following her election in 2009 running on the Connecticut Working Families Party line.

She confronted Governor Dan Malloy at a public meeting following state takeover of city schools. “This is democracy, not tyranny,” she said. She mixed it up with fellow board members Ken Moales and Tom Mulligan, both Democrats. In fact Sauda Baraka with whom Pereira was elected on the WFP line also mixed it up on Pereira’s behalf.

After Moales told Pereira she was acting like “you’re on Ritalin or you’re special ed” Baraka defended her honor, blasting Moales for “insensitive, disrespectful, disparaging, racist and stereotypical” comments.

When Mulligan served on the City Council he once described the contentious moments as “the Monday night fights.” The council meetings these days are tai chi sessions compared to the food fights on the school board.

And so has been incendiary life on the school board between Moales and WFP party members–charges, countercharges, name calling and mud slinging in a battle for control of schools. It reached the point some board members said screw it, this is sucking way too much oxygen out of the policy-setting process, I’m not running. Democrats Mulligan and Leticia Colon are not seeking reelection. And now Pereira as well. We would welcome Pereira’s reason for not seeking reelection.

On Saturday the WFP endorsed Baraka, City Councilman Andre Baker and Eric Stewart-Alicea, the elected vice president of the District Parent Advisory Council. They will appear on the ballot in November.

Pereira, a school parent, said in 2009 she decided to get involved and run for school board after her child was subjected to a revolving door of teachers. She was hoping to bring stability to the school board process.

Ironically it was the Democratic establishment with which she knocked heads that aided her election in 2009. Democratic political operatives on election day of 2009, thinking they would stick it to the Republican school board candidates, openly worked for the Working Families Party candidates they now condemn. Be careful what you wish for, eh? The WFP now occupies the three state-required minority-party seats.

And now the Democratic establishment is in for the fight of its life just to retain its slim 5-4 vote margin over the WFP. Working Families Party insurgents have the backing of the Bridgeport Education Association that represents unionized school employees. The campaign organization will have money and bodies to make their case at the polls, both in a September primary challenging endorsed Democrats for school board and in the general election with five school board seats up for grabs.



  1. Lennie, I know why you’d like to hear Pereira’s reason for not seeking reelection. You’re looking forward to saying, “Now tell us what really happened.” With the two “No mas” Democrats who decided not to seek reelection out of the picture, the Democratic Party was hoping to use Pereira’s conduct on the BOE against her as well as anyone aligned with her. The WFP definitely was worried about this. Consequently, Pereira did the noble thing–yield to the next in line.
    As I stated in a previous post, Pereira did a fine job standing up to the bullies. It’s more than I can say for the “no mas” duo. Leticia Colon can one day proudly brag to her grandchildren when she served on the BOE, she went two for two (quit twice) on the BOE game. As for Tom Mulligan, he has guaranteed entrance to heaven. It’s no longer a Vatican secret he used his position to help the Bridgeport Diocese land a hefty contract with the BOE and all he had to do was abstain from voting to cover his ass. The word in the Bridgeport Catholic Community is he was heard praying loudly for the endorsed candidates’ victory. I hear if his prayers are answered, he will be considered for Sainthood.

    1. Maria Pereira WAS asked to run again and chose not to for personal reasons. She is very much involved with WF and is working hard for the WF candidates this year and spoke at their state convention this weekend. That is hardly someone they are shoving aside.

    1. Good points in the article about the large number of changes critical to delivering desired improvements, many of which are seen in the Vallas five-year plan as well as implementation during the first 18 months.

      Framing the educational leadership process in a school district as a track event (sprint vs. marathon) is just one way of telling a story. But the “super” or CEO is only one part of the formula. Money (from more equal State ECS and local ‘MBR’) + effective BOE (that deals with policy, outcomes, etc.) that keeps focused on the kids in the classrooms + parental and community participation + 21st Century choices for secondary students + buildings, technology and support resources + quality instructional time + instructional evaluation and school/site-based professional development + solid school site administration with latitude for local issues + experienced and successful leadership at the top (call it Superintendent, CEO, whatever) = a school system ready to deliver better results. Students from a broad and diverse community where the majority are urban poor and English is a second language (or not spoken at home) and many parents are absent from homes or have not had school success themselves are the final element obviously. But they represent the human input for effective delivery by the community in the public school system. What elements are missing today in Bridgeport? I have my own ideas. How about you? More importantly, what do members of or candidates for the BOE believe? Time will tell.

      1. yahooy, you are a smart man. Stick to the subject, please. JML deserves better treatment from all of us. Having said that, JML strikes at the core of all past, present and future matters when he wrote asking: What elements are missing today in Bridgeport? I have my own ideas. How about you?

        I have ideas. The problem is who is there to listen and learn from those with insight to the problems and proposed steps to correct them? JML, this is where the formation of a nonprofit institution can make a difference. Let’s talk.

  2. Reading OIB earlier this summer and again today, I see where Tom Mulligan is again unfairly maligned.

    Earlier this summer, several posters maligned Mulligan as a “party hack,” etc. and now Joel essentially accuses him of malfeasance with the rental of Diocesan schools by the BOE.

    Over the years, I have met and gotten to know fairly well many of our City Councilmen, state reps and senators. A fair number of them are trying to do what’s best and even though I may vehemently disagree with some decisions, they are still good people. And yes, there were/are a fair amount of hacks who add nothing to the discussion but a rubber stamp vote.

    Tom Mulligan is one of the most level-headed people I have ever met in Bridgeport politics. He has common sense and is a fair person trying to do what’s right.

    You may have disagreed with his decision to dismantle the Board. Fair enough, and very legitimate. But he didn’t do it because he wanted his kids in magnet schools, a City job or a malingering relative added to City job rolls. He did what he thought was best.

    If there were more people like Tom Mulligan on the Council and City boards, we would have a better-run City.

    1. To some extent, I agree. Tom Mulligan is indeed a very smart man. But to try and separate him from other members of the City Council would be like separating conjoined twins. Mojo describes Mulligan as one of the few who knew what he was doing. Mojo was not in the list of “the few.” Don’t take this as “mud slinging,” it’s based on my observation. When looking at the voting records of all the City Council members back in Mojo’s days, the voting records of Mulligan on the BOE with the majority, there isn’t a noticeable difference for anyone to separate him from the bunch.

      “… If there were more people like Tom Mulligan on the Council and City boards, we would have a better-run City.” This could be possible or even a valid point. But when comparing his voting records with that of other members–council and BOE–one who isn’t as biased would see Mulligan is as culpable as his colleagues. I say “biased” because the response I got only centered on my comment on Mulligan. Any comments or views on the others mentioned on this LG commentary?

  3. *** Love him or hate him for his stand and vote while on city government or BOE issues; however T. Mulligan was one of a few who would take the time to explain to the sitting public what a particular line item was about, whether he felt it was good or bad for the city in general and why he would be or not be voting a particular way. A bit long-winded at times with his explanations to the board and public, but when he spoke, he spoke to everyone there in the room! In my opinion, one of a few who actually knew what he was doing and what was going on and took the time to research city government issues when possible. I’m in agreement with a prior blog statement that if there were more people like Tom sitting on the council or BOE, the city in general would be better off! *** Stop Slinging Mud, Just For The Sake Of Slinging! ***

  4. Denis OMalley and Mojo,
    Both of you are correct about Mulligan. And the point is if there were additional members of the public with similar dedication to gathering the facts, reflecting upon them, coming to a rational conclusion and a willingness to discuss and defend a stand, our governance would be much better than it has been.
    None of us is perfect. Tom does not don that cloak either. He knows there is more than one way to look at an issue, after all he is an attorney. But he has served publicly and participates.
    If you don’t like the team he has played on for years, remember it has been our only team because too many voters stayed home, were swayed by interests that were narrow and temporary or cannot be bothered to become informed and perform one of a citizen’s most important duties. Mojo in the ring once again? A step in a good direction. Time will tell.

    1. Could that vote have something to do with a future plan to award the Bridgeport Diocese a rental agreement for classroom space? I see I’ve caused some of you to be a little jumpy. Had I not raised these facts, you’d all be in total darkness waiting for God to once again say, “Let there be light.”

    2. Baffled, can you please explain this because Mulligan was one of the Board members who voted to disband the Board in favor of the illegal state takeover Even Mulligan would be surprised to read that.

  5. *** Opinions, hearsay and rumors have not yet been established to be “actual facts” on OIB. ‘Til confirmed by Lennie or CT Post, media etc., opinion accusations will continue to be rumored hearsay at best! *** Facts or Fiction? ***

  6. It was disappointing to me to read that Maria would not be running for re-election. Regardless of whatever faults she had, she was the one to always read the documents and ask the hard questions. Case in point was the Montessori debacle … she came to the meeting with many of the 62 pages highlighted and asked for explanation and clarification … which the presenter could not provide.
    In regards to JML’s take on Vallas … the urban districts that have seen good turnaround results do not look like the work Vallas is doing in Bridgeport. His search and destroy and take no hostages plan will not be sustainable or productive.
    Look at Boston where Superintendent Pazant did amazing work, building on partnerships with foundations, corporations, parents and especially the community to create sustainable results that are still there and continue to produce good results. He served over 10 years knowing there is not a quick fix! Remember, Vallas had no intention of staying past 18 months because he is a miracle worker.

  7. Getting back to Tom Mulligan, please do not confuse the man who represented the 132nd district with the one from the 130th.
    When Tom was representing the West Side and Brooklawn he was an independent voice and vote on the City Council. In his most recent tenure he was much more timid. He would discuss all the reasons he should vote against something but turn around and vote for. The political equivalent of a golf mulligan. A voting do-over.

    1. Bob, I have known Tom Mulligan for more than 30 years and have disagreed with him far more often than we have agreed. But I have never had any reason to believe his actions–as a Council member, city clerk or BOE member–were based upon anything other than what he thought was best for the City and the people he represented.

      Just my opinion.

  8. My interpretation of what JML said was if more people demonstrated true independence, then Mr. Mulligan may have gone along as well. Not quite your typical Profile In Courage.

  9. Takeover vote two years ago was 8-1. Lone dissent was Mulligan. Doesn’t mean I am a fan of his performance on the BOE, just saying he voted no. Probably decided not to participate in a sham and knew they didn’t need his vote.

    1. The BOE vote in July of 2011 for state control of city schools was 6-3 with Maria Pereira, Sauda Baraka and Bobby Simmons voting no. Mulligan was one of six votes supporting state control arguing “Tonight is just another example of the divisions on this board. They are deep and irreconcilable.”

    2. Baffled, you are confusing the vote to stand down on the budget cuts (which Mulligan did vote against) and the vote for the takeover, which most certainly was a 6-3 vote. Maria, Bobby and Sauda did NOT vote for the takeover.

      1. All the information traveling in all directions from the BOE has him/her baffled. There isn’t much we can do or say to help. It’s the reason I didn’t bother to point out the fact he or she was incorrect in regard to Mulligan’s vote for state takeover of the BOE. It’s a serious OIB offense to point out facts.

  10. I have know Tom Mulligan for 25 years, he is a man of devout faith and a devoted family man. He has volunteered himself to represent this city in numerous positions and for numerous years, all to the best of his ability and always with integrity. Tom is a well-respected attorney and would make a fantastic judge.


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