The firing of Bridgeport public schools Superintendent John Ramos should serve as vindication for former Board of Education members Sauda Baraka, Maria Pereira and Bobby Simmons.
On Aug. 5, members Barbara Bellinger, Leticia Colon, Delores Fuller, Thomas Cuningham, Thomas Mulligan and Nereyda Robles voted to surrender the Board of Education to the state. On Aug. 6, the state Board of Education voted 5-4 to take control of the local board.
For more than two years, Baraka, Pereira and Simmons submitted documented proof of mismanagement in the education department. Although they provided information that suggested the allegations justified an investigation, to this date we don’t have conclusive evidence. We know, however, that too much money has been spent by the department on lawsuits, telephone calls and hiring people for jobs that were not needed.
or many months the three board members, usually referred to as “dissidents” have recommended an audit. It never happened. We understand that public education is a problem throughout our nation. We also understand there are serious deficiencies in the Bridgeport public school system. For those reasons, if anyone can identify problems in our system that can contribute to alleviating the problem, let us embrace those findings.
The three board members, through determination and hard work, found the time and the courage to bring to light factors that could help redirect the department and save taxpayers’ money. If the full board had embraced such diligence, perhaps we would have saved money that could have been used directly for the children’s education. Far from acknowledging their service, they were brushed off by the administration and others as malcontents and obstructionists.
Bridgeport’s public school system has failed for many years. While Ramos was superintendent, the education department spent an unreasonable amount of money on attorneys’ fees.
Just to provide one example, in fiscal year 2008-09, the Board of Education’s total legal fees were $1.4 million. If we take in consideration that the city has 14 attorneys, who, by City Charter, are mandated to provide that service, we can understand why Baraka, Pereira and Simmons were considered “dissidents.” They were informing the people about facts that were affecting them as taxpayers, and that had to be kept in secrecy.
What the state-appointed board did in firing Ramos was what any company in Corporate America would have done to any CEO across America. Sadly, we, Bridgeport taxpayers, thanks to the six “functional” board members, have no other recourse but to swallow the health care package Ramos will take to Watertown as gift for the excellent job he did with our kids.
We don’t know what would be the outcome of the pending lawsuits for the careless and unconstitutional way some members of the Board of Education executed the process. We do know, however, that the State Supreme Court justices have implied concern about the process that took place in surrendering the school board to the state.
Regardless of the outcome, we, the people of Bridgeport, should be more vigilant about what our elected officials are doing. As for those organizations such as Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, the Bridgeport Public Education Fund, the Greater Bridgeport Latino Network and all others directly involved with education in Bridgeport — be true advocates for quality education.
Don’t be guided only by your bylaws, but by what your sense of social responsibility suggests. Don’t forget that the saying, “a city has the government it deserves,” involves us all: taxpayers, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, and anyone who has a genuine interest in the city’s good governance – even those who don’t live there.