Carmen Perez Dickson still has a job with the Bridgeport Public School system.
The embattled Tisdale School principal, caught on security video cameras on three occasions dragging kindergarten children down the hallway was given a six months suspension without pay, followed by a reassignment to an administrative position other than principal of Tisdale School.
The 4-to-3 vote came Wednesday, the deadline for a decision to be reached, and minutes from midnight.
Board members Sauda Baraka, Bobby Simmons, John Bagley and Jacqueline Kelleher voted in the majority. Thomas Mulligan, Hernan Illingworth and Leticia Colon voted in opposition.
After a hearing that stretched five months, the final night of deliberation had the seven board members – two rescued themselves before the process began – deciding Dickson’s fate painstakingly going through a 21-page decision document in executive session for more than six hours.
Dickson, a 35-year veteran educator was caught on three videotapes dragging kindergarten children down a Tisdale school corridor in February and March of 2012. She was also accused by staff members of hitting children and intimidating a disabled student by cracking a bat on a desk in front of her. School Superintendent Paul Vallas recommended in May 2013 that Dickson be fired. Dickson elected to have the board and not an arbitration panel hear the case. The hearing began in June. Dickson told the board said she used the force necessary to keep the children from hurting themselves or others.
The majority of the board found that Dickson did violate policies regarding physical force and that her behavior was excessive and inappropriate but did not rise to the level of dismissal.
Baraka said there were inconsistencies in the way polices were applied and incidents reported that made the case inconclusive.
Mulligan, who read the dissenting opinion, said the core responsibility of the board is to keep students safe.
“Using excessive force on small children is unreasonable,” Mulligan said. “”Each and every one of us on the board witnessed (Dickson) on video, drag a small child down a hallway pulling aggressively at the neck and arm in the process.”
Mulligan said Dickson’s excuse was to blame others.
Kelleher, the vice chair of the board and the swing vote, said she had significant concerns about the appropriateness of Dickson’s actions. She also Dickson seemed dedicated to her job and believed she was doing the right thing.
A specialist in educational psychology, Kelleher said she was inclined to consider another route of penalty. Suspension and probation, she said, were more appropriate.
Vallas said after the decision he was “shocked and appalled that anyone who claims to care about the safety of students could possibly reach this decision.”