BRIDGEPORT — Lorraine Wojchik won’t be assistant principal at Hooker School. Geraldine Claytor, Lenore Lewis-Foreman and Arlene Santos won’t be part-time aides at the city’s three comprehensive high schools.
And Carla Fontes-Alers will only be assistant principal at Luis Marin School if the adminstration can prove she has the blessing of the Marin School Governance Council.
Taking advantage of the departure of Bridgeport Board of Education Chairman Kenneth Moales shortly after the start of Monday’s school board meeting, the minority voting block on the board — three representing Working Families Party and Democrat Bobby Simmons — used the 4-4 voting split on the board to reject the appointments. Voting for the appointments were Jacquelyn Kelleher, Hernan Illingworth, Thomas Mulligan and Leticia Colon.
Board member Maria Pereira, who voted no, objected to the assistant principal appointments saying that the candidates had not been vetted by a quorum of the 15 member school governance councils. Apparently some members met with the candidates at Hooker School, but not a quorum of the panel as Pereira insisted was necessary.
Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas said the positions had to be filled, the individuals filling the positions already work in the district and were wanted by the school principals.
“We did involve the councils, and get their input,” said Vallas. “These people are working now and we need to get going…It you want to slow the process that is fine. They will continue on an interim basis.”
Kelleher asked if the law required a quorum to act on the appointment recommendation. “What committee doesn’t require quorum to make a decision,” asked Pereira.
A little background on the district and School Governance Councils, a law put into effect in 2010 to try to legislate more parent involvement and input in local schools, particularly in urban areas. The teacher’s union complained last spring that Vallas was ignoring the law. Vallas insisted he wasn’t ignoring the law, but making it better. After taking it to the state Department of Education, Vallas and the union reached an agreement to make sure the councils were in place and working.
Pereira, who didn’t have a chance to check with Marin folks before Monday’s meeting, asked if a quorum of the school governance council at Marin made a recommendation on Fontes-Alers. Baraka asked that the board make the appointment provided that evidence that a quorum of the school governance council had met and agreed to the candidate be provided by the next board meeting. The motion passed on a 7-0 with Pereira abstaining.
The three individuals who were to be part-time aides, Vallas said, were “auditioning” for the role of home school coordinators. The board voted earlier this year to hire full-time home school coordinators. Board member Sauda Baraka said she never heard of individuals auditioning for the job. “We can not continue to do things outside of what this board has identified as a need.”
“There is no timing on the filling of these positions,” Vallas said. “And we are still waiting to secure extra funds. We need to make sure the money is there … We are not defying the board.”
Pereira said the high schools need more parental participation and that a full-time person is needed at each high school.
Illingworth also said he wants the schools to have full-time home school coordinators. He had a hard time accepting that individuals would audition for the positions.
The appointments of the part-time appointments failed 4-to-4.
The board also approved the appointment of Mary Beth Stickley, who retired as principal at Discovery Magnet School this summer, to come back to the district to be the district turnaround officer, a new position that will be paid out of the Good Schools Bridgeport Fund, an independent grant. Stickley will earn $80,00o. Vallas said the district was getting Stickley on the cheap. She is getting about 60 percent what they would have to pay someone else to do the job. “This is saving the taxpayers money, not costing them,” he said. The turnaround officer will be in charge of the 12 schools that are must struggling to make sure interventions are taking place.
Pereira said she objected to Stickley collecting retirement funds and a salary.
Baraka sought assurances that the position would not find its way back into the operating budget. She voted for the position on that condition. It passed 5-to-3.
Eventually, Moales returned to the meeting and tried to reopen the votes that failed on tied votes. Under Roberts Rules of Order, motions can only be reopened by members who voted against it. Moales promised to get a legal opinion by the next meeting.