Weldon: Walker School Board Resignation A Temper Tantrum

Weldon, Martinez
File image: John Weldon confers with board member Jessica Martinez. 

Board of Education Chairman John Weldon writes in response to Ben Walker’s resignation that “he became upset by a change of the rules, threw a temper tantrum, picked up his marbles and went home.” Commentary from Weldon:

Ben Walker was elected to the Bridgeport Board of Education in 2015. Recently, he resigned his seat and has since cited his reason being that my Chairmanship of the Board, and a recent change to the Board’s bylaws, made it completely intolerable for him to finish out the remaining eight months of his term. He conveniently neglects to acknowledge that, from the City Attorney’s office, to outside District Counsel, attorney after attorney strongly expressed the need to not simply revise, but to REPLACE the bylaws of the Board that were in place until recently. Each law firm provided us with model bylaws to use and enact. Irrespectively, time and time again we were unable to move forward in that regard due to the resistance of a minority bloc of the Board (which included Mr. Walker) who feared changing them at all cost.

Throughout my own tenure on the Board, and others before me, much of the good that we’ve tried to do has been hampered by board policies that were far out of the norm–many put in place to give certain minority-bloc board members (including Mr. Walker) an ability to micro-manage the District. The status-quo of that continued to allow certain board members to manipulate and abuse District staff and Board processes. We were constantly burdened by those board members adding multiple items to meeting agendas, often with little to no background information provided and with no positive motive behind it, or to simply give those individuals a platform to use to grandstand on a particular topic of their choosing. This is what has caused us to notoriously endure meetings lasting to as late as midnight where, in the end, little (if anything) was accomplished. As Chairman, I was regularly blocked from assuring the Board was protected by having the benefit of legal counsel being available at meetings for critical issues with legal implications, which often meant that board members with certain personal agendas were able to pursue ulterior motives unabated by facts and legal reviews.

The “dysfunction” that is frequently assigned to the Bridgeport BOE has rested in large part with those bylaws which created a free-for-all environment where individual board members could hijack meetings with whatever topics they chose because the bylaws gave the Chairman no authority to decline them if they served no legitimate purpose to benefit the District. Here are just a few examples, taken from the 11/13/17 Agenda, which had 25 such agenda items under “New Business” (yes, 27):

— Where are we with teaching and learning and what are we asking our teachers to teach
— What do the reading, writing and math scores look like
— Why is Kennedy Stadium not supplied with a real scoring board for games
— How many students are being seen by guidance counselors on a daily basis

This is just a sample of what regularly plagued our agendas for years.

To be clear, the changes to these policies which were made in February were standard boilerplate ones which are considered normal by any other Board, whether it is in the public or private sector. Chairs are elected for the purpose of managing work of their Board by making sure they only address items which are impactful–not items that are an idle curiosity to one board member that could be answered with a phone call, and not items that are designed to push an individual board member’s personal agenda against other board members, staff or other officials. Democratic process doesn’t mean conducting ourselves spastically, which is how the BOE has operated for years. Rather, it means all have a voice but, in the end, the majority rules and business is conducted in an orderly, efficient and focused fashion.

The acts of dysfunctional board members, which Mr. Walker has consistently supported over the years, would have continued to wreak havoc unless our bylaws were replaced. None of these individuals’ antics have improved the educational opportunities for Bridgeport’s children. Our own attorneys have repeatedly scolded us for not addressing the inadequacies of our own bylaw policy series. Fixing that was not about politics, nor was it a power play. It was about the students who can now benefit from a more productive board being focused on the work it should really be doing, instead of spinning its wheels addressing matters of trivial importance.

For Mr. Walker to state that his reason for resigning (just eight months shy of the end of his four-year term) was because (in his own words) he “saw his rights to be a participant in the democratic process dwindle to the point where he felt ineffective in executing his duty as a board member” and to further assert that it was all a result of me leading a change in the bylaw policy series is simplistic and childish. Ben Walker resigned because the writing was on the wall that the lunacy that has plagued the BOE (and that he has been a part and parcel to by supporting those who have fought to perpetuate that lunacy) is coming to an end. In short, he became upset by a change of the rules, threw a temper tantrum, picked up his marbles and went home. If it were really “all about the children” for Mr. Walker (as he so often goes out of his way to tell us), he would have put his personal feelings aside and tried to find a way to work within newly established policy that was approved by a majority of his peers and designed to make the Board work better.

Make no mistake, as a retired teacher, Mr. Walker brought great insight to the Board and his loss will be felt in the Teaching & Learning Committee that he chaired for the past few years. It is unfortunate he chose to put his own ego ahead of the work he was doing for our children and that he further chooses to blame his decision to quit that work on myself and the actions of a Board majority that he wasn’t a part of, instead of acknowledging the role his own inability to cope with adversity and change played in his decision. I do not say that sarcastically. I appreciate the frustration of being in a minority and I know that change is hard. However, frustration and difficulty with change should not have meant walking out on the people who elected him in 2015 and the students and staff he took an oath to serve. Nonetheless, agree with it or not, it was his choice to make and I wish him well in his future pursuits.



  1. John Weldon is an absolute disgrace for writing an absolute bunch of lies

    The four agenda items John Weldon used an example were submitted by Dennis Bradley. In fact, he submitted 27 agenda items for that meeting to attack Dr. Johnson.

    In my almost ten years on the school board, there has never been a more competent committee Chair that produced more policies, initiatives, and programs that benefitted students, parents and staff.

    Every single statement made about John Weldon is simply the truth.

  2. John Weldon was/is chair of the Governance Committee, where our bylaws would be revised, Since appointing himself Chair in December 2017, he has only held 2 of his 13 meetings. Not a single policy or policy revision has come out of his committee. Not one.

    There was never any opposition to meeting to revise our bylaws. Not once.

    Mr. Weldon changed 51 pages of bylaws in a backroom somewhere with Testa’s and Ganim’s stamp of approval.

    Not a single committee meeting was held to discuss bylaws, therefore Weldon’s baseless assertions that Ben Walker did everything to oppose revising our bylaws is such a flagrant lie, there is really nothing else that can be said.

    Ben Walker was well respected by parents, staff and the public at large. John Weldon could never credibly claim the same.

  3. So let’s look at this. City attorney and outside counsel. Attorney after attorney said…….
    The question I have is what do the city attorney(s) do, and how much don’t they know. Why is it that so many “outside” attorneys are necessary in almost every aspect of Bridgeport’s government? Who are the attorney’s, who selects them, what are their expertise in the subject matters and what are they paid. Are the same select attorney’s used for all the different matters that the cities attorney’s apparently lack the understanding of? What percentage of the cities legal business is farmed out to these select attorney’s? Willinger did all the work for Lynn Haig of OPED to write the new text amendments which now allow councilman Defilippo to open his liquor store. Is this how the city gets to help it’s own “special” friends to get their way by any means? It worked for Defilippo didn’t it?
    With respect to the BOE shouldn’t it have been an inclusive process by ALL the board members regarding the revamping of their by-laws?
    If Bridgeport is ever to turn around for the better then I suggest that all these deals need to stop being made in back rooms.

  4. I attended the BOE meeting at which the “proposed” by-laws of reference were adopted — immediately after attempted discussion concerning the latter, by then-BOE-member Walker, was abruptly/summarily shut down by Chairman Weldon in a context of angry disregard of meeting protocol and etiquette.

    Then-BOE member Walker, politely/civilly attempting to initiate discussion concerning the substance of a particular by-law change, was interrupted by an angry Chairman Weldon, the latter declaring that the meeting was over, at which point several BOE members stood up and joined in a chaotic yelling-episode as they paraded after Chairman Weldon in the wake of protest at the aforementioned behavior by several parents/citizens in attendance at the meeting. Indeed, there was a near-scuffle/angry encounter between an exiting BOE member and a citizen concerning the cell-phone recording of the scenario by the latter.

    It would seem to this writer/citizen-attendee of the meeting, that the “proposed,” wholesale change of the functional by-laws of the BOE fit the category of being “extremely-important” to this body, such that failure to accommodate discussion of all aspects of such change should be considered very, very shoddy, inappropriate, and probably illegal procedure/modus operandi by an important, official government board charged with among the most important missions of any municipal-government oversight-board.. Leadership failing to accommodate a full airing/discussion, and appropriate vote (in this context) of such by-laws changes would certainly seem to be describable in terms of incompetent inadequacy, and indeed, illegitimacy and illegality. In a word, such leadership behavior would seem to be of the “impeachable” category, and the by-laws, having failed to proceed through legally-indicated protocol of passage, should be considered legally null and void… Both the “leadership” role of the rogue leader, and the illegally-adopted by-laws, illegally foisted upon the official functioning of the legally-sanctioned BOE, should be legally expunged by due process, per statutory requirements of oversight of such bodies by the State of Connecticut…

    Now; it might be speculated that the aforementioned meeting scenario was designed to set up an argument for a state take-over of the BOE/Bridgeport public school system, but appropriate, mandated scrutiny of the meeting in question, as well as the past several months of BOE dysfunction, would expose inappropriate behavior by several BOE members (in leadership roles) to the extent that their tenures could be legally and rightfully terminated by the state, and new BOE elections, with state oversight, ordered such that new membership/leadership could be selected for this critical Bridgeport oversight board.

    The temper-tantrum of reference wouldn’t seem to be describable in terms of Mr. Walker’s resignation, but rather in terms of Chairman Weldon’s angry, incompetent disregard of meeting rules of order and illegal treatment of mandated meeting procedure on a critical matter demanding specific, legally-described protocols.

    This citizen was appalled at the bizarre, total disregard of protocol and legally-mandated procedure on a critical matter by the leadership and majority of the membership of this critical Bridgeport body. The whole matter deserves investigation/action by the State of Connecticut as well as appropriate commentary from City Hall….

    In the mean-time, Chairman Weldon, and others, should submit their resignations from the BOE, and temporary replacements appropriately selected, in lieu of elections. The illegally-adopted by-laws in question should be tabled, and the “abandoned” by-laws temporarily re-adopted until such time as an appropriately-elected BOE can reconsider by-laws changes by way of the utilization of prescribed, legal protocol for such considerations.

    1. I was also at the by-laws meeting. It was a shameful sham of an event. At the end I felt compelled to yell out “SHAME.” Others joined in. I believe video of the end of that meeting was previously posted here on OIB.

      1. SHAME ON YOU,,,,,JOHN WELDON and the other puppets,,,,Martinez,Illingsworth,Taylor,Allen and the newest puppet,Lombard(I). A seventh puppet will be have their strings attached soon and will be put on the BBOE.

  5. What are the accountability measures available to the public to determine whether results expected of the Superintendent and all employees under her direction each year are trending positive or negative? What are the trend lines, if any? Does the current BOE have clear purposes and ways and means of tracking them for routine presentation to the public? Can the BOE point to interactions with their employee, the Superintendent, where the financial strains of the cuts in recent years are directly impeding these results? Can such discussions occur where the public can witness the exchange of professional level information and opinion? When the November election comes around, remember that the DTC has never registered a comment about school outcomes for the youth of the City though having much success in finding jobs for some Bridgeport citizens. And Ganim2 has not been in the forefront of educational visioning for City youth or increasing City contributions based on something under his control on the development side. What have you done to enhance the life and prospects for my young neighbors?? Failing evidence of intent and effort, replace the incumbents. Who is more vulnerable in this City, the young folks in school or those who hold an elected or appointed post?? Time will tell.

    1. That’s my point. If many of the elected, appointed, and ANOINTED were voted out and replaced then maybe Bridgeport and its inhabitants could start to have a better outlook and future.


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