Bridgeport School board wrestles with staff relations and each other
BRIDGEPORT — The city school board met in private with its attorney Monday to discuss legal advice about board/staff relations but not before allowing its first meeting of the new calendar year to get off to a loud and heated start.
As Board Chairman John Weldon pounded his fist on the table, board member Maria Pereira expressed strong objection to Weldon asking for the opinion and the attorney’s presence at the special meeting without full board approval.
That, she said, violates board policy.
Eventually the board sided with Pereira on a 3 to 2 vote, with three abstentions, even as Attorney Floyd J Dugas of Berchem & Moses advised the panel the vote might be violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
“You don’t know what you are talking about,” Pereira told Dugas, adding, “He needs to be fired.”
Eventually, the board did go into executive session to hear the opinion — reportedly an email from the attorney — which Weldon insists was not aimed specifically at remarks board member Chris Taylor has made over the course of his tenure on the board to and about staff.
“It was not specific to one board member,” Weldon said. “It was about the chain of command — board personnel relations. Over time there has been several instances where (board menbers) do things they could have done better,” Weldon said.
Taylor, who acknowledged he met privately with Dugas to clear up questions he had about his rights on the board, also insists Monday’s meeting wasn’t about him.
“Surprisingly enough,” said Taylor as he left.
Over the past year, Taylor at one budget meeting called teachers who wouldn’t accept pay cuts “rubbish.” Upset with answers he was getting last June from the district’s athletic director over a proposal to reintroduce freshman football only at Harding High School, Taylor quipped “I hope your name is not on our budget list.” It was. And another meeting, Taylor told personnel director Frank Chester he loved him to death but was the weak link in human resources department.
Last month, Taylor sent an email to Weldon, asking for a board discussion item on terminating the employment of the district’s school construction liaison, the city’s school construction manager, the district’s personnel director and an assistant superintendent.
Weldon responded with a warning to Taylor that board members need to “stay in our lane” and added he was copying legal counsel on the topics Weldon wished to have put on the agenda.
After the hour-long closed door session Dugas would only say that the law and best practice in Connecticut is to follow the chain of command and refer all matters to the superintendent. Technically, the school board’s only employee is the superintendent.
Pereira called the executive session a farce and said she intends to file a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission.