Hennessey Elected New School Board Chair, Pereira: We’re Coming For Ya

school board meeting
Mayor Bill Finch, center, chairs organizational meeting of school board.

Update: includes video. Retired school teacher Dave Hennessey Monday night became the fourth Board of Education leader in less than four years, defeating incumbent Sauda Baraka in a 6-3 vote at the Aquaculture School and further splitting a coalition that helped elect the two last year. The meeting was chaired by Mayor Bill Finch.

Prior to the vote three public speakers weighed in including former school board member Maria Pereira who urged the reappointment of Baraka saying “her word can be taken to the bank. Her vote, values and core principles were never for sale.”

Hennessey, a Democrat and former City Councilman from Black Rock, was elected to the school board last year with Andre Baker and Howard Gardner, defeating the endorsed candidates in a primary, in an alliance with Connecticut’s Working Families Party on whose line Baraka has appeared twice. The coalition control between insurgent Democrats and the WFP was short-lived due to various education issues and personality conflicts.

Sauda Baraka and Maria Pereira
Sauda Baraka and Maria Pereira

Hennessy’s name was placed into nomination by former school board president Ken Moales who replaced Jacqui Kelleher as school board leader. Baraka replaced Moales one year ago. Moales, an African American, proclaimed Hennessey “is not my color but he is my kind,” adding Hennessey is respected in the community including leadership of the Bridgeport Education Association teachers union.

Howard Gardner placed Baraka’s name into nomination asserting some people don’t want to take direction from a strong woman, particularly a “black woman.”

Hennessey was backed by himself, Moales, Joe Larcheveque, Hernan Illingworth, Andre Baker and Kadisha Coates, the newest member of the board. Baraka, in addition to her own vote, was backed by Gardner and Jacqui Kelleher.

Larcheveque, the one Republican on the board, was elected vice chair, replacing Kelleher.

BOE challenge slate
Dave Hennessey, left, with Andre Baker Baker and Howard Gardner crushed the endorsed Dems in 2013.

Pereira has not been bashful about displeasure for Hennessey and Baker who she says betrayed core values in supporting Coates, a supporter of charter schools, to fill the vacancy left by John Bagley. During her remarks Monday, Pereira warned, “You may very well receive your crown tonight, but please know you do so without a broad base of community support and the vast majority of us that worked so hard to get you elected have already started the process of organizing to make sure your crown is stripped away 12 months from now.”

Pereira posted this comment on OIB a few days ago:

If Dishonest Dave Hennessey receives the votes to win the chairmanship, it is because he sold his soul to get the five votes. He could not get the five votes unless he voted for charter school parent and advocate Kadisha Coates. I know it, he knows it and just about every politically active person in Bridgeport knows it. Dishonest Dave’s word means absolutely nothing and he betrayed all of those who worked to elect him. There is a price that must come with betrayal.

Sauda Baraka has been elected three times by the electorate and has nine years of experience on the BBOE. Dave Hennessey and Joe Larcheveque have one year and never attended BBOE meetings until they decided they wanted to run for the BBOE.

If either Dave or Joe are elected chair on Monday, my absolute commitment is it will fuel many to make sure 12 months later they will lose their crown.

Sincerely yours,

Maria Piranha

Megan DeSombre from Education Bridgeport shares these video clips, first one features Pereira uttering “scumbags” a reference presumably toward a majority of school board members about to cast a vote for Dave Hennessey. Second clip shows Hennessey issuing his first statement in prepared remarks as board chairman.



  1. I couldn’t be more disappointed by Hennessey. At least Baker stood up here. Larcheveque was always a random shot. I think Sauda has done an amazing job. Face it folks, the Board of Education in any town or city is where citizens flock to duke it out over a multitude of issues. Since Sauda came on board and was voted chair, there has been healthy debate, some votes her way and some not. That’s called democracy. Messy, unpleasant sometimes, but hey, it’s democracy. I know that doesn’t work for Bill Finch and his roving band of thugs but it has worked just fine over the last two years or so. I admire and respect Sauda, I am worried about Dave Hennessey’s agenda and I wonder where the hell Andre Baker is. And as a last thought, why the hell is Kenneth Moales still on this board? If he is a man of God, I have a lot more prayer to do.

    1. I just want to be clear, my reference to those who were “scumbags” was specifically about Andre Baker and Dave Hennessey. Joe Larcheveque, Kenneth Moales, Hernan Illingworth and Kadisha Coates didn’t betray all of us who worked on last year’s BBOE election, only Dave and Andre did.

      A brilliant woman I know told me the only people who can betray you are those you trust. How true Andre Baker and Dave Hennessey proved that statement to be.

    2. As you can see, Dishonest Dave repeatedly stood up each time he spoke last night???

      Does anyone see the pure rhetoric and hypocrisy of Dishonest Dave’s new-found concern for proper conduct, decorum and behavior of others?

      For a full year, Kenneth Moales has repeatedly called Sauda Baraka disrespectful and disparaging names while he, Joe Larcheveque and Hernan Illingworth sat there in pure silence. However, now there is such deep concern about the public discourse and “them against us.” Where was your concern over this compelling issue over the last 12 months, Dishonest Dave?

    3. I was speaking with someone who said they overheard two separate exchanges a BBOE employee had with both Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker on Monday night.

      Dave Hennessey walked into the vestibule and a BBOE employee who worked the polls for 12 hours for Dave and Andre on election day asked him how many years he had left before his term was up. Dave told him three years. The employee told him I will never vote for you again and I will never volunteer for you again. Dave walked away and told him in three years you might not have a job.

      Andre Baker also ran into this BBOE employee in the vestibule and he/she told Andre he was a traitor and he/she would never vote for him again. Andre told them he didn’t care.

      This was just hearsay so I called the BBOE employee personally to ask if any of this was true, and he/she confirmed it was absolutely true.

      Both of them were inappropriate, however for Dishonest Dave to threaten a current BBOE employee with the loss of their job and livelihood over this exchange is really unethical and disturbing.

      Looks like Dave Hennessey is going to fit right in with Mayor Grinch’s henchmen.

  2. “Over the past year, there were many times when we have had vastly different opinions on how best to achieve that goal. There is not one right way or wrong way,” [Dave] Hennessey said afterward.–from tonight’s CT Post article.

    Then pray tell Mr. Hennessey, why did you have to engineer a coup to overthrow Ms. Baraka to become chair of the school board?

    And couldn’t you have done it without voting for such a weak replacement for Bagley and hitching your wagon to Moales? That’s the leadership you’ll bring?

    Aren’t you trying to make the best BOE you can? Then why did you not vote for the best candidate to replace Bagley? Tonight’s events leave no doubt: you needed to be chair.

    And, Mr. Hennessey, why during the many Board of Ed meetings I’ve attended in the past year, did I never hear you utter so much as this–“There is not one right way or wrong way”–when your new and likely short-term political ally Moales was uproariously disrespecting and denigrating Baraka for having a different opinion?

    I hope you might state such things now at meetings, now that you are chair and are all but ensuring a new harmony and productivity for the BOE.

    Finally, I didn’t attend the meeting tonight; can anyone verify Moales really said of Hennessey that Hennessey “is not my color but he is my kind” for the record?

    Would anyone find it acceptable today in Bridgeport–in Connecticut, no, in the United States of America–if a white elected official at a public meeting nominated an elected African American official for a leadership role on a committee or board by stating for the record while the African American is not his color but [at least] he’s his kind? Who is that supposed to appeal to? Fellow racists?

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”–Philippians 2:3-4

    “Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    1. Pete,
      I was there and Lennie’s quote is completely accurate.

      I also want to thank you for your candid and honest posting regarding Dishonest Dave.

      The vast majority of us know Dave sold his soul for his victory tonight. He did not win because he was admired and respected by the majority of his colleagues or because of his leadership skills, he was elected because he cut backroom deals. Sauda never sold her vote, or wavered in her beliefs and values to become chair and Dishonest Dave will NEVER be able to say the same.

  3. Baffled in Bridgeport, I am not sure why it appears you are defending Andre Baker.

    Not once but twice, Andre Baker told Ms. Baraka he was voting for her. On the most recent occasion, he did so at a face-to-face meeting where there was a witness.

    Apparently this afternoon he was contacted to confirm he would be voting for Sauda tonight. He told the caller he did not feel obligated to keep his commitment and Sauda didn’t have the votes and he needed to be on the winning side. When the caller challenged him on failing to honor his word, he stated as long his vote got him something in return, he was fine with his decision. He stated “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,” and the caller told him “then you do what you have to do and you are going to pay a price for it.”

    Now we have to do what we have to do, Andre Baker the Faker.

  4. For those who were not at last year’s Annual Organizational Meeting, there was standing room only when Sauda was elected as chair. In fact, when she won the election last year the vast majority in attendance cheered, clapped and gave her a standing ovation.

    There were fewer than 25 members of the public there tonight and at least half were there in support of Sauda and against Dishonest Dave. All three speakers spoke in support of Sauda. Not one speaker spoke in favor of Dishonest Dave, Joe Larcheveque and Hernan Illingworth, not one.

    There was no clapping, cheering or standing ovation tonight for the victors. There was just silence. What this clearly demonstrated is Dishonest Dave, Joe Larcheveque and Hernan Illingworth do not have broad-based community support.

    This fall every single candidate up for re-election to the BBOE is aligned with Mayor Finch. And as I stated in my remarks this evening, I pleaded with Moales, Illingworth and Coates to seek re-election. I pleaded with them not to make the decision they do not want to serve on the BBOE because the community is organizing to make that decision for all of them at the polls this September. We want the distinct pleasure of removing them from the BBOE and I truly hope they do not deprive us of that satisfaction.

  5. The only comedic part of the night was Dishonest Dave must have been reading up on Robert’s Rules of Order, and although members are required to stand when speaking in really large formal bodies like the U.S. Congress or the CT Legislature, this buffoon stood upright in front of his seat when he was chairing the meeting last night. It is not required of municipal bodies or organizations with a small number of members.

    We were all giggling because he just looked so idiotic and pathetic. I mean he has been on the BBOE for a year and no one has ever done this and he just couldn’t figure out how absolutely ridiculous he looked.

  6. The Mayor presided over the election meeting last evening. In some brief comments he “once again” made reference to his four children who have or are receiving a public school education.

    Only the deaf or those who have never heard him address school issues will be unaware of the education of his offspring.

    But the biggest issue facing Bridgeport public schools is money. Fran Rabinowitz at a recent meeting stated $6 Million in cash is necessary to open the doors next year. That is the critical issue, and local funds are necessary. Addressing this issue as he has failed to do during much of his term of office is a critical failure on his part.

    Six million for the school system for the operating budget or six million (from bonded debt the public cannot easily see) for more play areas in Bridgeport for children who are not getting an exemplary education? Put that on a referendum for voters. Time will tell.

  7. I am disappointed in Sauda not getting re-elected as BOE chair. I’ve known Sauda for a several decades and she has always been a very principled, articulate and intelligent lady whose character is beyond reproach. Dave Hennessey rode into power as a reformer, as the anti-Finch candidate, but ended up being the candidate of choice for Ken Moales, which says a lot about his integrity and character.

    Damn Andre, it didn’t take very long for the Democratic Party to buy your ass or are they just renting with an option? Typical Bridgeport logic, it’s not who you know, but who you blow!

  8. Pete Spain, excellent remarks! Oh Andre, what happened to the man I admired and supported from the day you ran for public office? On a personal note, my political heart is broken!!!

  9. Lisa,
    I too appreciate the comments of Pete Spain. I have also admired the diligence and endurance of Andre Baker, first on the City Council where he asked questions that got him removed from the Budget and Appropriations Committee. Yet he would still visit, raise questions and attempt to connect the dots as the City continued to practice governance behind a dark curtain.

    There is much broken in City governance and that should take readers’ precedence on this column. However, “my political heart is broken” is such a unique statement, it deserves to be on Only In Bridgeport. Pray tell though, it is personal, you made it public, where you are pained, and what does one take for a broken political heart? Time will tell.

  10. This board is really no different than the board Finch appointed. The only difference is the names of those on the board. These are not the people we elected, these are chameleons who morphed into Finchettes. My biggest disappointment was Andre Baker.
    Part of the blame can also go to John Bagley who quit and to Maria who chose not to run but attends every BOE meeting and comments voraciously on the blog about education matters.
    The shame and fact is this board has been in a pissing contest for power and nothing has changed and the kids are still getting screwed.

    1. Andy Fardy, I totally disagree with you on your view about Ferguson but on this one I totally agree with you, they are Finchette BOE members but the only question I have about them is how they will address the mayor, will it be your honor, Mr. Mayor or Master?

  11. I must say I’m really disappointed with Andre Baker. I’ve waited for some time before making any comments on Baker because I was looking for something to show me I was wrong with the way I was looking at him and his positions. Baker has gone way too far in the wrong direction, a lot of people thought he could possibly run for mayor but not now. I know I would do whatever it takes to block any moves he makes to run for anything. He has totally turned his back on the community but I know he will say something different but it doesn’t matter. I can’t vote for him, he had a bright future but that’s gone. How can you trust him now?


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