School Chief Contract May Require Another Vote

An “unfortunate typo” may force another vote to approve the contract of acting school chief Michael Testani.

The board, by a 6-1 tally, approved the $200,000 annual salary for Testani who is replacing Aresta Johnson while a national search is conducted for a longer-term superintendent of schools.

The board agenda for the special meeting listed a discussion but no vote on Testani’s contract.

CT Post reporter Linda Conner Lambeck has more:

Board Secretary Joe Sokolovic said that he left the meeting early, unaware there would be a vote. Board member Maria Pereira, who stuck around and voted no, pointed to the error in the agenda posting after the meeting.

Board Chairman John Weldon called the omission an “unfortunate typo” and said whatever proper corrective action is necessary will be taken.

He took issue with Sokolovic’s suggestion that he was unaware of the meeting’s purpose.

“He should have poked his head up and said something so it could be corrected, not sit back and see if we violate (the Freedom of Information) Act,” Weldon said. “Did he really think we were only going to talk, but take no action, on a contract that would commence in 12 days?”

Full story here.




    Ok in response to Mr. Weldon’s pathetic attempt to avoid blame for his continuing incompetence, I feel I must publicly respond. Contracts are often negotiated Over multiple sessions. There is a give and take until a final product is produced. My job is to attend meetings and I do so nearly 💯 % of the time. Some contracts are even retroactive.

    I must take off for regular meetings and change my hours at work for specials. Ifa special meeting runs long and there is no action to be taken I leave and get to work on time. I had no reason to believe a vote would take place. I can only go by the agenda produced by Mr. Weldon.

    Mr. Weldon has done little to do things in an orderly and timely fashion. In fact we are going on week 4 without a balanced budget and no meeting in sight. Please Mr. Weldon Man up and admit your error for once. Just what do you think I could do at the meeting? It was too late. Nothing could be added to a special meetings agenda.

    Simply a sad little man trying to avoid responsibility for your mistake.

  2. John Weldon is just completely disgraceful and incompetent.

    He not only sets the agenda, he is such a control freak he literally types then up himself on BOE letterhead.

    They are then sent to Joe Sokolovic as Secretary for his signature before they are filed with the City Clerk and posted on the BPS website.

    This was 100% John Weldon’s error, yet instead of just admitting his error he is trying to blame Joe Sokolovic.

    Joe is 100% correct. John Weldon is just a “sad little man” in every sense of the word.

  3. This was the first meeting we were going to discuss the first iteration of Mike Testani’s contract.

    Berchem & Moses mercenary Attorney Floyd Dugas, who recently donated $1,000 to Mayor Ganim’s campaign, had listed Testani’s salary as $200,000 when the Board had given him direction on a much lower maximum.

    Although I came to have significant differences of opinion with Fran Rabinowitz, she was qualified to be a Superintendent. She was a classroom teacher, director, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent with many years of high level experience and possessed an 093 Superintendent certification.

    She earned $190,000 as our Acting Superintendent.

    Taxpayers should be outraged that Mike Testani, who has zero qualifications to be the Acting Superintendent of the largest school district in CT, will be earning $200,00.

    Attorney Dugas had the gal to insert crazy language that if Testani receives a negative evaluation that John Weldon create a committee with as few as two board members that will meet with Testani in executive session to discuss his performance and offer supports.

    How outrageous is that? CT state law states a local school board has one employee which must be evaluated annually by the full board, Mike Testani works for nine equal members of an elected school board, not a faction or fraction of the school board. This is an attempt to prohibit elected members of the school board from fulfilling their explicit statutory responsibility.

    He put in this crazy language that Testani’s evaluation must be provided to him in Executive Session. The FOIA is clear that you are NEVER required to go into executive session. However, you MAY go into executive session if two-thirds of those present and voting vote to do so, therefore you cannot mandate that it be done.

    Attorney Dugas inserted language that Mike Testani can do whatever he wants, without BOE approval, as long as it is not explicitly prohibited by state law or board policy.

    If he wanted to replace every single administrator to replace them with his buddies he could do so without board approval. How many lawsuits could the BOARD face if something like that occurred.

    I have worked on four separate Superintendent contracts or renewals. This is outrageous language that I have never seen before.

    I asked Attorney Dugas where this language had come from. He stated he had negotiated several Superintendent contracts with this language. I asked for the names of the school districts so that I could FOI those Superintendent contracts. He stated he didn’t have that information off the top of his head but would research it.

    I emailed him early the next morning calling his bluff. Here is his response:

    “language in issue from was the Stratford BOE contract with Irene Cornish (it goes back several years). It was merely a sample I had handy for evaluating an Acting/Interim Superintendent because the other samples I had did not have any evaluation language in them. I added this because when I met with the Board on June 29, it was made clear the board wanted to include such language. Mr. Weldon neither requested the two person-committee, nor discussed it with me. If you read the language, it ,makes clear two things: (1) this is simply to deliver the evaluation which has already been conducted by the full board, and (2) it only happens if the Board votes for it to happen. In short it was a suggestion that last night the Board was free not to adopt. As for your request to produce three examples of similar language, I am not going to waste board dollars doing so unless directed by the Board chair to do so.”

    I knew when I called his bluff he would refuse to provide the requested information because it does not exist.

  4. It was our first meeting on a contract for the highest paid employee in the City of Bridgeport, yet John Weldon called for a vote. I knew immediately he was violating the FOIA because the notice explicility states that there would be a “discussion” of Mike Testani’s terms of employment.

    John Weldon cannot run a meeting to save his life. Chris Taylor attended without so much as an agenda in his hand. As I was pointing out all the issues with the contract language you could see that that John Weldon, Jessica Martinez, Sybll Allen, Hernan Illingworth and Lamar Kennedy had not thoroughly read the contract.

    It appeared that only Joe Sokolovic and I had read it thoroughly and made notes and had prepared questions.

    When Weldon called the vote I publicly stated on the record that Mike Testani would be serving as the most unqualified Acting/Permanent Superintendent in at least the lastv40 years and was not worthy of the position, and certainly did not deserve $200,000. In fact, Mike Testani had the gal to request $230,000, $15,000 less than Dr. Johnson that had extensive high level administrative experience, has an 093 Superintendent Certification, a Doctorate, and is a scientist.

    White Privelege is real folks!

  5. The other additional agenda item was the discussion and possible action on the Teach for America,,aka Teach for a little while, contract.

    TFA is the teaching arm of the charter $chool industry and the effort to privatize public education. They also exist inpart to break teacher unions.

    They are a “non profit” with over $300,000, 000 in assets. All the darlings of the privatization movement sit on their Board.

    They recruit college graduates, mainly from white suburban communities, to make a two year commitment to teach in predominantly in urban school districts.

    They are rarely certified teachers. They receive 45 days of training to become a “teacher” by attending TFA programs over the summer and are allowed to teach through alternative routes. To put their lack of qualifications into perspective, CT requires a hair stylist to receive 1600 hours of instruction before being licensed.

    In 2009, without the Board’s knowledge or approval, Dr. Ramos signed a contract with TFA where we had to pay TFA a “placement fee” of $2,400 for each TFA recruit for each year.

    In 2016 ,Sauda, Ben, Howard and I had the votes to reject a new three year contract. We negotiated a very strict contract and Sauda, Howard and I voted for it with the understanding that the administration had three years to develop an in house program regarding teacher recruitment and retention. We made it clear to TFA this would be their last contract.

    Lissette Colon and BPS teacher Mr. Bronson had developed and submitted a detailed teacher recruitment and retention program that was submitted to the full Board. Both Mike Testani and Weldon, Martinez, Illingworth, Lombard,,Allen and Taylor had not even read the submitted proposal when I brought it up at Thursday night’s meeting.

    In November 2018, TFA approached Dr. Johnson about another renewal. She informed them she would not be renewing their contract.

    So what did Black Rock resident and CT Director of TFA Nate Snow do? He and his staff went around Dr. Johnson to John Weldon.

    If you recall, Nate Snow ran as a Republican candidate for the BOE on the same slate as John Weldon who ran as a Republican City Councilman in Black Rock. They were both soundly defeated. He was also the Board chair of the defunct Ex$cell Bridgeport which was involved in the illegal takeover.

    John Weldon called a meeting with TFA and allowed them to make a dumb 30 minute presentation. Dr. Johnson was furious, and although normally very stoic, you could feel her anger.

    She was pressured by John Weldon to sit with TFA and negotiate a contract. Their placement fees have increased 38% in 10 years. Their recruits turnover rate is MASSIVE in Bridgeport and nationally.

    In the last 5 years 56% of TFA teachers have left while our district average is 10-12% which includes retirements. Nationally, 50% of TFA teachers leave after two years and 80% are gone by year three.

    These recruits are not teachers. They are college graduates who take no teacher preparation courses. They know nothing about instruction, curriculum, pedagogy or class room management. In fact, their qualifications, or lack there of, mirror those of Mike Testani.

    Our students need ” dedicated, highly qualified teachers” invested in the success of our deserving students, not college recruits that have no desire to be life long educators who are simply using their TFA stint as a resume builder.

    TFA only serves to de- professionalize the most important profession in our democracy. Teachers create all other professions and those that work in them.

    We will now be paying $3,300 to TFA in a placement fee for each year that one of their highly unqualified recruits “teach” in the BPS.

    Just before we voted I looked directly at Mike Testani and stated ” our true 1,500 certified teachers deserve to know if you support TFA.” He squirmed and he stated “I support Teach for America in shortage areas and AS NEEDED.”

    Any all true BPS teachers, please share Mike Testan’s support of TFA widely.

    Joe Sokolovic and I voted no. The weak Lamar Kennedy whom privately shared he would never vote for TFA simply abstained. John Weldon, Jessiica Martinez, Hernan Illingworth. Sybil Allen,,former TFA recruit Joe Lombard “enthusiastically” voted in favor of this contract that is an absolute disservice to our children, true teachers, and tax payers.

  6. Oh, one final tidbit.

    The TFA contract was not vetted in committee, therefore there was a lengthy discussion.

    Chris Taylor, who did not have a single piece of paper in front of him, became so annoyed by the length of the discussion. He looked at John Weldon and asked “how long are we going to talk about this? It’s been almost a “fucking” hour.” John Weldon said nothing.
    I looked at John Weldon and said ” are you going to allow him to speak like that at a meeting?” John Weldon responded with silence.

  7. What a mess! There is no way on Earth that Mike Testani is qualified to be the Acting Superintendent of the Bridgeport Public Schools, except that those who voted for him do not care that the students are provided with the “best” opportunity to succeed. This has been a consistent problem since the 2015 election. Chris Taylor has complained numerous times that administrators do nothing and teachers are way overpaid. Hernam Illinworth took it farther in suggesting that perhaps we could settle for less qualified personnel that were cheaper. And it is well known that John Weldon is only interested in hiring someone who he thinks he can control! Sybil Allen always votes the way she is told to by the Machine and Jessica Martinez is so distracted by her life disasters to make a cogent decision. So, I guess by these clowns standards, Mike Testani is perfect. But $200,000? What the hell…did Flatto loan the district the City’s money tree?

    Then there’s TFA, Teach for America (or Teach for Awhile), the scabs of the teaching world! What a rip-off. These non-certified, non-trained, non-prepared employees are paid the same as a first/second year certified, trained teacher, PLUS the district has to pay a “recruiters fee” to TFA in the tens of thousands of dollars, making these uncertified, untrained, unprepared employees MORE EXPENSIVE than a real teacher! I voted vehemently “NO” on renewing their contract!

    Just remember, as I have said before. All of this mismanagement, misappropriation, additions to contracts, convenient typos, all of it is orchestrated by John Weldon. He is hell-bent to wrest ultimate and unlimited control over the Bridgeport Public Schools. It’s his own little fiefdom! He is a petty little man who only cares about his own power. With City Hall’s blessing and the shyster Dugas’ help, he is well on his way to silencing all remaining opposition. The welfare of the students no longer plays a part in his decisions.


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