AP NEWS

bridgeport City to lose another schools superintendent

April 2, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson has told the city’s Board of Education she will only be in the position for another year.

In a two-line letter to the board on Monday, Johnson said she will not seek or accept a renewal of her contract beyond its April 30, 2020 expiration.

A year ago, Johnson had been offered a three-month extension to bring her contract in line with the school year. She never signed it.

Johnson has been in charge of the 20,500-student school district since December 2016, and was named permanent superintendent in March 2017.

Throughout that time, she has faced multiple multimillion-dollar budget cuts and a school board that many describe as dysfunction and contentious.

Last year, during her first evaluation with the board, Johnson insisted it be held in public. While she got a passing grade and most board members called her a strong academic leader, she was given low marks by several, including Chairman John Weldon, in the area of board relations and communication.

Weldon’s evaluation called one of her actions “borderline insubordination.”

Johnson responded by saying from the time of her appointment as superintendent she has made a concerted effort to improve outcomes for all children.

“There is only so much push, push, push,” she said in discussing the evaluation last November. “At some point, things will break. ... I am asking for a level of fairness and respect. I did not see that over (the) 2017-18 (school year).”

On Monday, she could not be reached for comment.

Weldon, on Monday, said Johnson had always indicated she would stay for one three-year contract.

“She is holding true to that,” said Weldon. “I think its a loss in continuity. We have to go through this process that we went through not long ago.”

Board member Maria Pereira said the announcement comes as no surprise.

“I know she has been very unhappy for a long time,” said Pereira. “I know she cares about our children. I know she understands curriculum and instruction. Her challenge has been leading in a decisive way. There are strong political forces in Bridgeport. Her challenge (has been) in standing up to those forces.”

Pereira was initially a strong supporter of Johnson but recently started telling her publicly she should resign.

In February, a majority of the board pulled the plug on a series of community forums designed to inform the public about the district’s deep financial troubles, even though it was the board that directed Johnson to do them. Some felt, in an election year, the forums were too political.

Some members of the public, hearing the news on Monday, were disappointed.

“It’s sad. I feel bad,” said Albert Benejan, president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Bassick High School. He called her an amazing person, always professional but had to deal with so much pressure and harassment from the school board.

City Council Member Ernie Newton, another supporter of the superintendent, also called it sad.

“I know it’s been hard dealing with a Board of Education that had its own agenda,” Newton said. “Maybe we will start electing people who care about the children. I wish Dr. Johnson well.”

lclambeck@ctpost.com; twitter/lclambeck