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Bridgeport school board picks up tab for stolen car part

February 12, 2019

BRIDGEPORT — How long does it take to saw off a catalytic converter from under a 2007 Honda CRV?

School Board Member Sybil Allen ventured a quick guess of “20 minutes”.

In about the same amount of time on Monday the city school board, in public session, to agree to approve a grievance and compensate a teacher whose car faced that indignation as it sat in the Bridgeport Military Academy parking lot on August 31, 2018, the second full day of school.

The board voted 4-2 with one abstention to pay special education teacher Lisa Balzano the $500 difference between the repair bill and her insurance deductible.

The approval came even though it was made clear to the board by its attorney, Floyd J Dugas of the firm of Berchem Moses that its contract language with the union provides for adequate parking but not necessarily safe or secure parking.

”It is an unfortunate situation but the grievance process not venue to complain,” Dugas told the board.

He suggested approving the grievance could prove a slippery slope for every scratch or dent inflicted on cars parked on school lots.

Eric Marshall, representing the Bridgeport Education Association said it should be self evident that parking spaces be safe. The lot, which is off Atlantic Street behind the school which once was part of the University of Bridgeport campus, has neither a fence or security cameras.

“It left her feeling insecure about the safety of her car,” Marshall told the board, as he passed around a picture of the sheered off converter — part of the exhaust emission control device.

Someone would have had to slide under the car to saw it off.

Board Vice Chair Jessica Martinez said she felt bad for the teacher but said it up to the union to bargain correctly and change the language of the contract.

“I don’t know how we can treat teachers this way,” said Ben Walker, another board member and retired music teacher.

Board member Maria Pereira agreed, saying unlike dents or scratches that could have happened anywhere, this car was clearly vandalized in the lot.

“Clearly the car go there,” Pereira said.

She and Walker along with Hernan Illingworth and Jessica Martinez voted to approve the grievance. Allen and Board Chairman John Weldon voted ‘no.’ Joe Sokolovic abstained.

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