Where’s the Mayor?

Minutes from Sept. 28, 2010 regular meeting, shows BOE members in attendance

I bumped into Stamford’s NAACP President Jack Bryant in Stamford High School’s main office Tuesday morning. We chatted for a few minutes, during which time he told me to expect a long list of people to turn out at this coming Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting to voice their concerns about the recent conversations about grouping.

The grouping topic has brought out a lot of Stamford educators, parents and other community members in recent weeks. But the one person I’ve yet to see at a Board of Ed meeting since I started reporting for the Advocate in July, 2010 is Mayor Michael A. Pavia.

The Advocate ran a story on June 26, 2010, in which then-education reporter Wynne Parry wrote:

“I have been very busy, but now I have some time, I’ll be attending the meetings,” when possible, he said.

According to minutes from the Board of Education meetings since that date, Pavia, who is a non-voting member of the Board,  has not attended a second meeting. It’s an issue that has caught the attention of parents who regularly attend the meetings. Last month, Rippowam PTO member Kerry Hunt sent the mayor this email:

Rippowam PTO member Kerry Hunt's April 27 email to Mayor Michael Pavia

Do you think it’s important for Mayor Pavia to attend Board of Ed meetings?

Maggie Gordon

10 Responses

  1. CT Education Facts and Info Blog says:

    In Connecticut, decades ago when Cities and Towns were “going broke” like Bridgeport and Waterbury the State Legislators stepped in and separated the City-Town Operating Budgets from the local Board of Education Budgets. The reason being that Mayor’s and First Selectman were closing schools left and right during and after school years in order to control taxes and operating budget shortfalls. Board of Education budgets were never sacrosanct or privileged, and in fact many Mayors and First Selectman used to openly deal and meet with Board of Ed members and decided budget issues for many years.

  2. Publius says:

    Mayor Malloy had an “education liaison”, who I believe was unpaid. She mostly worked with the pre-K program, but occasionally interacted with BOE members. I’m not sure attending BOE meetings is an efficient way to monitor BOE activities. Perhaps a monthly meeting with the superintendent or the BOE president would be better. I believe Malloy maintained an advisory relationship with the superintendents. Don’t know if Pavia is doing the same.

    But as you said, the practice in CT generally has definitely been on the side of a separation of the mayor’s office from BOE matters, and for good reasons.

  3. Veritas says:

    We agree upon there being no substitute for the ex officio membership of the mayor.
    Perhaps I did not express the pragmatic aspect of my last comment adequately.
    Notwithstanding the public sentiment favoring the ‘presence’ of the Mayor, it seems a matter of common managerial & political sense for the Mayor to be up to date on the BoE’s issues, feelings and votes.
    Absent the Mayoral presence, someone should be keeping the city’s chief executive informed.

  4. Publius says:

    Veritas, you are on the mark until the very end. When the Charter Revision Committee reviewed the proposal that the mayor could be a non-voting member of the BOE, it considered whether he could send a liaison in his place. After some discussion it rejected that idea, and limited it to the mayor himself (or herself, one day).

    During the last mayoral campaign, David Martin expressly committed to regular attendance at BOE meetings. Pavia was silent on the issue, but reportedly discussed with several supporters the possibility of being his “liaison”. At an early meeting of the BOE after Pavia’s election, Ed Matthews showed up and asked to be seated as the mayor’s rep, but the BOE president said she wanted to review the charter provision, and soon learned that it was the mayor or nobody. So Matthews withdrew, and i believe the mayor has not attended since.

    I’m not sure what value is served by the mayor’s attendance. The mayor has always had the opportunity to meet with the BOE president, or a representative, or with the full board for discussion. I know for a fact that there were often meetings between BOE members and the Mayor, especially on budget issues, both before the charter change and after. I also know that Malloy’s attendance at BOE meetings after the charter change could best be described as sparse, and usually not for the full meeting.

    The mayor of Stamford has a huge responsibility running the City. In addition to his “day job”, he is called on to meet with constituents, attend community events, attend funerals and ribbon cuttings, and many other responsibilities. I’m not sure attendance at BOE meetings is a reasonable expectation if he has no vote. And since 1949 Stamford seemed to function well without the mayor’s official position on the BOE.

  5. Veritas says:

    Up until Mayor Malloy the Board of Education was sacrosanct, and for good reason. It is supposed to be above and beyond the Mayor. That’s how it was designed in the first place, and why the BoE’s proposed Operating Budget can’t be touched by the Mayor. He can look. He can comment. He can recommend. But he can’t cut.

    The notion of the Mayor ‘as a corporate CEO’ flies in the face of the way local governments are organized in Connecticut,particularly in Stamford. He’s not supposed to get what he wants just because he wants it!
    The Charter adopted when the Town and City of Stamford consolidated in 1949 had one thought in mind – the big decisions will be made by broadly elected Boards: Finance, Representatives and Education – not the mayor. Decisions are made by boards which presumably reflect the will of Stamford residents.
    That Charter still governs Stamford, even though a revision decided the mayor could be an ex-officio member of the School Board. That was really putting lipstick on the pig. Nothing has ever stopped any mayor from expressing an opinion, from speaking with school administrators, with school board members, or the parents of students.
    Their choice to do so or not has been their own.
    But, since the ex officio position was created, the Mayor’s office should show a modicum of respect for public will, and have a competent liason attend in his place.

  6. Another Parent says:

    I think there was a scrap metal swap meet that conflicted. Not sure….just sayin’….. !

  7. Bob says:

    Trust me, if the Mayor knows the same about education as he does the fire service you don’t want him anywhere near these meetings.

  8. Marcella says:

    I’m not surprised. At the Public Hearing at TOR Middle School on March 24th almost every person who spoke asked where the Mayor was. I guess he’s not a great supporter of education.

  9. Watching says:

    The next meeting is when — May 24 at 7pm?

    Is anybody taking wagers?

  10. m says:

    Yes, I think it’s important for the mayor to attend. The BOE budget is a huge part of the city budget, and how is the mayor going to understand what the BOE goes through when it comes to cutting dollars if he doesn’t interact with them at board meetings?

    True, his is a non-voting position, but he can still give opinions, participate in discussions, and ask questions–Mayor Malloy did, Mayor Pavia should as well.