Howard Gardner Shares Perspective On “Monolithic” Comment At School Board Forum, Weldon Demands Apology

UPDATE: Comments From Howard Gardner and John Weldon:

Joe Larcheveque, Steve Best and John Weldon, Republican candidates for Board of Education, question Democratic candidate Howard Gardner’s usage of “monolithic” to describe the three Republican candidates for school board during a forum Thursday night. OIB received several emails and phone calls Friday questioning Gardner’s characterization. Gardner is running on a Democratic slate that includes two black males and one white male. No females or Hispanics on the Democratic ticket. The Republican slate has three white males. So what was Gardner’s reference? Does ethnic and race makeup trump candidate quality? Would appreciate comments from folks who attended the forum. Statements follow from Gardner, Weldon, Larcheveque and Best.

From Gardner:

My statement did not emanate from a vacuum; it was in response to one of our Republican opponents who attempted to portray the Democrat and Working Family Parties team as homogenous thinkers with no diverse points of view (monolithic). The fact is, while there is a common ground on many issues, we do have varying views on others–what role, if any, should charter schools play in education reform, as an example. There will be as much dialectic among us as a coalition as there will be between us and other board members. Also, my statement was made as a follow-up to a statement I made approximately 30 minutes earlier. In that earlier statement, I emphasized our team reflects the city of Bridgeport. Members of our team reside in all but one of the major districts of the city; and our various backgrounds created a perfect complement to become effective members of the board: Sauda’s two-term BOE experience; Eric’s long-term involvement in PAC activities and current leadership; Andre’s experience with the operation of city government, and as business owner; Dave’s 38 years of teaching and coaching; and my 27 years of corporate experience.

From Weldon:

I’ve read Mr. Gardner’s statement with respect to his use of the term “monolithic” to describe the three endorsed Republican candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education, of which I am one, along with Joe Larcheveque and Steve Best. Before I talk about Mr. Gardner’s response, I think a definition of the term “monolithic” is in order. From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1 a : of, relating to, or resembling a monolith : HUGE, MASSIVE

b (1) : formed from a single crystal <a monolithic silicon chip>

(2) : produced in or on a monolithic chip <a monolithic circuit>

2 a : cast as a single piece <a monolithic concrete wall>

b : formed or composed of material without joints or seams <a monolithic floor covering>

c : consisting of or constituting a single unit

3 a : constituting a massive undifferentiated and often rigid whole <a monolithic society>

b : exhibiting or characterized by often rigidly fixed uniformity <monolithic party unity>

Now that we’ve established what “monolithic” means, myself and Messrs. Best and Larcheveque are anything but monolithic. We have each operated our own independent campaigns, funded and operated primarily with our own resources and efforts. We three are beholden to no group or faction and, if elected, will continue to operate with independent, individual thought and conscience.

Again, now that we’ve established what “monolithic” means, it actually perfectly describes what Andre Baker, Sauda Baraka, Howard Gardner, Dave Hennessey and Eric Stewart-Alicea are. They are not a “team,” as they continuously refer to themselves as. Rather, they are a bloc seeking to gain control of the Board of Education. This faction says the Board is controlled by the Mayor and they seek to wrest that control away from him–but they neglect the second half of that sentence, which is: and give that control to Andre Baker, Sauda Baraka, Howard Gardner, Dave Hennessey and Eric Stewart-Alicea.

The phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely” holds true. It stifles progress and censors free dialect and the sharing of ideas–it doesn’t matter if that control rests with the Mayor or with the five-person bloc pictured below, who make no bones about their intention to completely take control of the Board.

Again, now that we’ve established what “monolithic” means, let’s talk about what Mr. Gardner really meant. He speaks of diversity. However, I would assert he used that term in Thursday’s forum as being synonymous with the phrase “people of color”–He was essentially saying a vote for the Democratic and Working Families candidates is a vote in favor of “people of color.” I would also assert he uses the term “monolithic” as being synonymous with “the White Man.” Mr. Gardner can backpedal all he wants at this stage to try to deflect the underlying racist meaning of his statement. However, in my own view, he should instead simply own up to it and apologize for it. In this day and age, where we have people of color in all manner of powerful places–right up to the President of the United States–we should not be playing the race card. Irrespectively of whether Mr. Gardner takes true ownership of his statement or not, I am truly disappointed in him and his attempt to make this election about race.

Larcheveque statement:

During closing statements presented at last night’s forum, Democratic candidate Howard Gardner tried to draw a distinction between his fellow party and adopted Working Families candidates and the three Republicans. Mr. Gardner touted the diversity of his fellow allies seated to his left, and then immediately stated that when he looks at the Republican candidates to his right, he sees “monolithic.” It left me, as well as others in the room to wonder exactly what the word “monolithic” meant in that context and why he felt it was an appropriate term to use.

My Republican colleagues and I come from completely different backgrounds. Steve Best spent his early years outside of Bridgeport. I grew up in Bridgeport near East Side Middle School, and John Weldon hails from Black Rock. I am a paramedic; Steve a retired publishing executive; and John a transit district manager.

We started our campaigns on our own, at different times and for different reasons. We chose not to become a slate because of the diversity represented in our opinions on issues that we will surely face on the Board.

We all want a better education for our children. We all want our kids to be safe and secure, happy and well rounded. We all want our elected officials, administrators, teachers and staff to have a student-centered approach. That is quite a monolithic set of concepts if you ask me.

State law requires minority party representation to prevent a monopoly on ideas and political views. That concept is being hijacked as the Working Families Party and the Democratic candidates join forces to silence any minority voice on the Board of Education. It seems the plan is to build consensus the easy way, by assuring little opposition occurs in the first place.

I sincerely hope the comment made by Mr. Gardner at Thursday night’s forum is not a portent of behavior we can expect on the Board of Education should he be elected.

We have had our fill of divisive behavior permeating Board of Education meetings. Every discussion at every meeting needs to be focused on the children, with respect and attention paid to all. The politics need to be checked at the door.

Best statement:

Last night’s Board of Education Candidate Forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, was a great evening for the candidates and for the future of Bridgeport Public Schools. The event concluded with closing remarks by each candidate. As the random draw dictated, I was going to be the last one. Immediately prior to me was Howard Gardner. As I was turning on my microphone, and waiting for my cue to speak, Howard delivered a closing comment that put me on my heels.

As I recall these final moments, Mr. Gardner turned to the Democratic and Working Families candidates that sat to his left and referenced their “diversity”. He then immediately turned to his right, to face the three Republican candidates, and referred to us as “monolithic.”

Mr. Gardner’s comment caught me by complete surprise. Much of last evening’s forum discussion had been a positive and sincere promotion of improved discourse in Board of Education meetings, and the paramount need to eliminate the incivility that too often plagues this body. As I picked up the microphone, I let his words lie there for a few moments. In those few seconds, it was difficult to comprehend what he meant. Clearly, he was distinguishing between the left and right sides of the podium. Yet, it seemed implausible to me that he would be making such a provocative declaration. My simple, and non-confrontational, response was: “I am not sure how to address Mr. Gardner’s ‘monolithic’ remark. I am still pondering what it meant.”

There is some personal irony in this. I was very much looking forward to meeting Howard Gardner. I had been told many good things about him. We are both endorsed by Citizens Working For A Better Bridgeport. Except for a brief handshake before the forum began, we have had no interaction or communication. We do not know each other. Alas, he somehow felt compelled to call me “monolithic.” Mr. Gardner, I have pondered this for a full day now. Please explain what you meant because I want us to have another handshake.



  1. Indeed the statement was quite perplexing. After it was said, an elephant stomped into the room and did not leave until the room was empty. I am really not one for censuring but I do believe one should pay attention to the cadence and feel of the event and gauge the appropriateness of one’s comments by it. No one else went to that place, and there was absolutely no need to. That is why Gardner ‘s unfortunate choice of words is sticking with folks. Up to that point, the forum was providing a pretty good feel for candidate ideas as well as a kind of MO for each candidate, for voters. Well, maybe it still did. If this type of style will be evident from the top down, do we really want to teach our children to draw these types of lines in the sand, or do we want them to learn to play well with everyone in the sandbox?

  2. Lennie, why is this (the usage of the term monolithic) an issue? Must I remind you the three Democratic candidates won their spots in a primary against a diverse group consisting of a Hispanic, a woman and an African American?

    Just reading the comment from Larcheveque I can state he understood what Mr. Gardner meant by the use of the term:
    “We started our campaigns on our own, at different times and for different reasons. We chose not to become a slate because of the diversity represented in our opinions on issues that we will surely face on the Board.

    “We all want a better education for our children. We all want our kids to be safe and secure, happy and well rounded. We all want our elected officials, administrators, teachers and staff to have a student-centered approach. That is quite a monolithic set of concepts if you ask me.”

    I’m sure Howard Gardner’s usage of the term wasn’t meant to point out the representation of one color of skin on the Republican non-slate. Sounds like they were all playing “in the sandbox,” Gardner’s shovel of sand sends some sand flying in the sandbox (unintentionally) and some sand landed in the eyes of some of the other players who felt it was an intentional act to cause harm and break the harmony in the sandbox.

    1. Speedy, considering the makeup of Gardner’s slate and the slate he challenged and defeated, why did he even go there? Why group them with a characterization? They are three individuals. If the shoe were on the other foot how would that have been perceived? Maybe Howard will enlighten us. What’s more important, dubious diversity or candidate quality?

      1. Okay, Lennie. Is there a YouTube video? What were the exact words used, context, tone and demeanor of Howard Gardner? Did he group them as members of one (mono) Republican Party? I want to know how many BOE candidates are monolingual. Can you e-mail them and get this important information for us?

      2. Hey, Lennie! I heard from some people who attended the forum (why no ‘debates’ on education?) where the M-word was used by BOE candidate Howard Gardner. I asked around for any videotapes of the event and from what I heard there wasn’t any taping of the event. There could be some video or audio recordings out there.

        This is what I hear: If we go back a little in the story, Lennie, before Howard Gardner spoke, John Weldon had spoken. I believe it was the part where the candidates give their closing speech. Sources say Weldon was cocky or pumped up in his speech and started comparing himself and the two other candidates on his side with all other candidates sitting there. Now I’m wondering why Lennie didn’t seek a comment from Weldon. Weldon allegedly “banged” his hands on the table
        on at least two occasions for emphasis. Weldon grouped the Republicans in his speech. When Howard Gardner spoke he made the reference to the Republican side (in a no pun intended kind of way to Weldon) and suddenly the “M” word was used. Allegedly, Weldon’s speech included a part in which he stated neither of the three Republicans had received funding from any groups. If CW4BB is not a group and hasn’t contributed to them, that may be true. It appears at no time during and after the Weldon and Gardner speeches did Best or Larcheveque distance themselves from “the side” created for them by Weldon in his speech. Why can’t Lennie hold an OIB forum for candidates with the full understanding the forum will be taped?

        1. Joel: I was there and the remark was made by Gardner, without provocation. It was out of place, not called for and went over like a lead balloon. I like Howard Gardner, and I am very disappointed.

          The remark came out of the blue, there was no reason for it, and Weldon was not cocky, he did bang his fist but it was directed at no one in the room. It is no one else’s fault, Joel. It’s Howard’s.

          Gardner cannot un-ring the bell, but he can explain what he meant and apologize for a very ill-thought-out choice of words.

          1. Well Mustang Sally, tell us exactly what was said. But do try to recall Weldon’s choice of words. Your perception of what Gardner may have meant is clear as you have faulted him and want an apology.

            Is there a video of the event, Sally? How about giving us your take on some of the other points I raised and my other questions. Absent of a video, all we have so far is a perception of a few people who called Lennie with their way of interpreting what was meant or said by one particular BOE candidate. My apologies to any and all OIB readers offended by my question of how many of the BOE candidates are monolingual.

  3. You can listen to whomever suits your needs, Joel. Next time, go to the event yourself. It was not my job to videotape the event. I was merely in attendance. Anyone you ask is going to have their own perception. Don’t let mine trouble you.

    Sunday morning third-party quarterbacking does not seem to be your usual style, Joel.

    1. Good thing I was standing at a distance behind the Mustang. The kick missed the target. Not your job to videotape the event. Was it your job to call Lennie with your perception of what Gardner meant? I’ve gotten to know John Weldon and Howard Gardner more than the other candidates. As I pointed out, there’s no statement from John Weldon. One little-known fact about Weldon is his partner or wife is African American. It’s kind of odd an alleged racist remark is missed or went over the head of a white man in a relationship with an African American woman.

      Lennie is the quarterback here. A third party quarterback if he didn’t attend the forum. Someone or a few people called in a play to quarterback Grimaldi. As a player on the opposing team it’s my job to break the play, intercept or strip the ball to cause a fumble. If you want to score points you have to come back with a better play. Yet I’d still have the right to ask for a review of the tape. Will someone pick up the red flag?

  4. I was at the forum and the context of Howard Gardner’s remark had to do with geographic or neighborhood diversity. He pointed out the five Democratic and WFP candidates represented the East End, the East Side, the North End, the West End and Black Rock. The three Republican candidates all come from the same neighborhood, Black Rock. He thought having members on the Board of Education representing different neighborhoods was an advantage over three from one neighborhood.

    1. rob traber, step back a little more. The Mustang may try kicking again. What say you about this?

      “Steve Best spent his early years outside of Bridgeport. I grew up in Bridgeport near East Side Middle School, and John Weldon hails from Black Rock.” Perhaps Mustang Sally can tell us her perception after reading this. Kind of leaves the impression only John Weldon lives in Black Rock and contradicting what rob traber just posted. rob traber, stay running behind me, I just broke a hole past the defensive line.

  5. Prediction: The Republican non-slate for BOE will take the race card pulled to Ctpost next. After reading the Statements from all three of them I’m puzzled as to why them can’t put together the exact context and words other than “monolithic” used by Howard Gardner. Howard Gardner if a well educated man and I’m sure that if he wanted to say what his accussrs are saying he said or meant by what he said, Mr. Gardner would have used the word: Monoracial. Sounds like a desperate call for attention. The race card–never leave home without it!


Leave a Reply