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Official Grabs Camera, Orders Filming Stopped

by Melissa Bailey | Dec 21, 2011 12:35 pm

(125) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools, The Hill, School Reform

(Updated 5:42 p.m. with apology.) The city’s schools spokesman grabbed a reporter’s camera during a pre-arranged reporting session and demanded that filming be stopped at the newly privatized Roberto Clemente school.

The incident Wednesday morning once again raised questions about the transparency of the school reform movement, in particular the city’s first public school to be run by a private company.

This reporter arrived at the school just before 10 a.m. for a pre-arranged meeting with Principal Pam Franco at the Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy at 360 Columbus Ave. The Independent requested to set up the meeting in order to cover a computer testing session with students.

The Independent has been checking in at the school this year, following its takeover by a New Jersey-based company called Renaissance Services LLC.

On Wednesday morning, at the beginning of the Independent’s visit, schools spokesman Chris Hoffman made an unannounced visit to the school. He announced he would be following the Independent along with the visit. This reporter objected, saying that having district officials hovering over reporters interferes with the relationships between reporters and teachers and students.

(Update: Wednesday afternoon, Hoffman contacted the Independent to offer this statement: “I apologize to Melissa Bailey for my conduct today. It was wrong and unprofessional, and I deeply regret my actions.”)

Second update: Hoffman put in a letter of resignation Friday, effective at the end of January.

The Independent was not aware that anyone from the district would be attending the visit. Hoffman had not warned the Independent he would be following along. He said he got word at the last minute Wednesday morning from schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo personally asking him to attend.

After the Independent aired concerns off-camera, Hoffman insisted upon following the Independent. This reporter pulled out her Nikon D3100 camera and began filming an interview with Hoffman.

“No, I’m not doing the video,” Hoffman protested. He grabbed the lens of the Nikon and pushed it downward.

When the Independent kept filming, he put his hands on his hips, and got close to the reporter, yelling.

“For the record, I didn’t touch you. I touched your camera,” Hoffman later emphasized, raising his voice and pointing his finger. “If you say otherwise,” he warned, pointing his finger again.

“Turn the camera off,” he ordered. Click on the play arrow at the top of the story to watch. At the beginning of the video, the view is blocked because Hoffman is grabbing the lens.

It was a similar circumstance to May 13, when Hoffman barred the Independent access to a meeting with parents at the about the upcoming corporate takeover at the 500-student, K-12 school.

At that time, Hoffman explained on video why barring reporters from public meetings is in keeping with the school district’s vow for transparency in its nascent school reform movement. (Click on the play arrow to watch.)

Subsequently, the school board held an illegal meeting to approve the contract with the school’s new private managers before it had been publicly discussed. When the illegal nature of the meeting was raised, officials aborted the meeting.

Systemwide, critics have raised questions about the ability of students, parents and others to speak publicly about the progress of school reform. The principal of Wilbur Cross High School disbanded a political club after its leader organized a rally for more textbooks. She then canceled a student election after he won it. Mayor John DeStefano subsequently defended the principal’s actions as proper and in line with his approach to school reform during this year’s mayoral campaign.


Past Independent stories on Clemente:

Nayelie Cools Off With Ms. Magaldi
Teacher’s Return Causes Ruckus
Clemente Cleans House
School Board OKs Clemente Takeover
Fine Print Released On Clemente Deal
Illegal Meeting Aborted; Co. Starts Work, Anyway
City Secretly Plans School’s For-Profit Takeover
For-Profit Charter May Take Over Clemente
Two Schools Become “Turnarounds”

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posted by: nhteaparty on December 21, 2011  12:50pm

Welcome to Crime Haven.

posted by: concerned on December 21, 2011  1:03pm

I am a little disturbed by this man’s intimidating actions.  I would think his actions bordered on disorderly conduct.  I hope he is currently placing all of his items in cardboard boxes.

posted by: streever on December 21, 2011  1:06pm

...  Dropping f bombs in a school?
Grabbing a reporters camera?

Who does he think he is?
Why does he still have a job?

This is the same guy who wrote a memo to all staff saying they weren’t to speak with reporters, claimed he didn’t do it, and then, when the Advocate filed an FOI, told them he hadn’t sent the email, and later said it was a mistake and released the email.

Seriously, this guy thinks he behaves in an acceptable manner?

Sorry, but tax payers are tired of people who get paid on our dime refusing to be open and transparent to us.

posted by: Blame the Mayor on December 21, 2011  1:10pm

WOW.
How much is this articulate ‘spokesman’ being paid?
Just more of the same, but you can’t blame me- I voted Kerekes. Blame the Mayor.

posted by: ASL on December 21, 2011  1:22pm

Oh dear.

posted by: md24 on December 21, 2011  1:26pm

At what point during this did it occur to him that it was a good idea to try and grab the camera?  Under what scenario can this be viewed favorably… by anybody?

Mr. Hoffman’s job… is a “spokesperson”?!?!?!  It is his job to be professional at handling communication, no?  I would modestly suggest that he did not handle the duties of “spokesperson” very well.

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 21, 2011  1:43pm

He must of watched this video before coming to the school.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLKukwm9ODo

This is truly not transparency! Not a good thing! get rid of the whole lot of them and start form scratch! My tax dollars are paying for this?

posted by: East rock on December 21, 2011  2:03pm

Melissa- next time he approaches you in such an agressive manner, try mace.

posted by: Tonee on December 21, 2011  2:17pm

Wasn’t a cop grabbing camera, and wasn’t Yalie doing filming….non story!

posted by: Gary Doyens on December 21, 2011  2:23pm

Chris Hoffman should be fired.

1. It is not Hoffman’s job to be a “minder” in the style of China or Russia.

2. His job is supposed to facilitate information, not block it, twist it, or create an atmosphere of intimidation with journalists, teachers, students or administrators.

3. That Superintendent Reggie Mayo sent him over there to be a “minder” is equally absurd, unnecessary and dictatorial. It’s also a waste of money.

4. The press was not crashing the gates. The Independent had a pre-arranged meeting as a worthy follow-up to our $500,000 investment in turning around a school Mayo/Clark/DeStefano et al has repeatedly failed to do over a very long period of time.

5. What is the NHPS trying to hide now? That is the only reason for a “minder.”

6. How can one believe in so-called “reform” when PTOs are supposed to be cheerleaders only; when you have principals who have to be bribed to do the right thing from announcing their retirement to instituting reforms; when contracts are approved in secret; and when the NHPS acts as a bank to people who are not credit worthy?

Further, how are taxpayers to believe anything that comes out of the mouth of DeStefano/Mayo/Clark/Hoffman when the concept of “transparency” is bastardized and prostituted for political gain or to serve as a platitude in a mayoral campaign or as some sort of side dish on the menu of alleged school reform?

I supported Jeffrey Kerekes in the mayor’s race because he is authentic, honest, open and real among many other traits and professional experience. Never in a million years would a Kerekes Administration knowingly violate open meetings laws; send a “minder” to birdog a reporter or so clearly, repeatedly, willfully bludgeon the concept of openess and transparency as the DeStefano Administration does and actually seems to enjoy.

That’s the difference between believing in the 4th Estate or doing time in it. It’s the difference between embracing transparency and the light and understanding it cultivates and hovering in the darkness giving lip service to a sacred concept with all the loyalty and affection of a hooker.

posted by: Lucky Luke on December 21, 2011  2:26pm

Looks like Hoffman certainly had a right to be there just as much as The Independent. The tables have turned making the reporter become nervous just as they do to others. Seems like The Independent is being a baby on this one.

But, I’m not supporting the guy grabbing the camera.

posted by: Threefifths on December 21, 2011  2:34pm

I smell cover up.Why is Melissa not able to video.What are they hiding. Next we must expose Dumus and Katherine Brennan.

posted by: Teachergal on December 21, 2011  2:39pm

Someone needs some anger management training! Hopefully, no children were observing this encounter. The reporter seemed very calm yet mr. Hoffman was very upset. What is his title?

posted by: JAK on December 21, 2011  2:40pm

Wow.  While a camera interview in a school probably ought to be negotiated beforehand, the lack of tact displayed by the spokesman is stunning.  In this day and age, all PR should assume that they need to be “on” at all times.  This guy behaved as though he needs a spokesman himself.

posted by: Maybe Now on December 21, 2011  2:53pm

Maybe now the New Haven Independent can see what the custodians have been going through for the past 3 years with this corrupt New Haven government.

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on December 21, 2011  3:41pm

This smells of coverup and corruption.  It seems as though the meeting was agreed to to first show how open and fair they are, but then it stifled when a reporter actually shows up.

Melissa, thank God you weren’t a priest in East Haven.  You would have been accused of having a gun, and had the camera confiscated.

Now, how to we oust Hoffman, Mayo, and DeStefano?  The list continues to grow, and the answers are nowhere in sight.  Is it a wonder that people are transferring children to other schools, magnets, private school, or out of town?

There has got to be some level of accountability.  But who would enforce it?  It seems that everyone in power is corrupt at this point.

posted by: MrRay on December 21, 2011  3:42pm

Are people ever going to learn. There are certain things that governments should run. That’s why we have governments. Privatising schools is absurd. If Hoffman is an example of Renaissance Services LLC’s hiring practices I’d be very concerned about sending my children to one of their schools.

posted by: brutus2011 on December 21, 2011  3:49pm

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much is this video worth?

This is a rare video portal into the culture of those who manage NHPS.

There appeared a rare print portal into the mentality of those who manage NHPS several days ago in the NHI. See the comments section of this article where a top NHPS official “loses it” in print but spoke volumes as to how he really thinks as does this video: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/move_around_a_lot_try_magnet_schools/

Folks, view this stuff and make up your own minds.

This is priceless information.

Priceless.

posted by: observor1 on December 21, 2011  3:51pm

This is a firm confirmation of how the city administration and the school higher ups refer to transparency in their actions.This guy is anything but professional in his manner of dealing with the media.Did he really think that his childish actions on camera would not make it to the people of New Haven.I would have thought by now ,with all the video issues going on,that he would have been more discreet.Must be something in the water in New Haven and East Haven. We all must realize that transparency now means that “only what the city doesnt want to hide” will be allowed.Otherwise “cover up” will be the key word.

posted by: Daniel Boardman on December 21, 2011  3:55pm

I’m not saying what the guy did was right, but if somebody, anybody, was to stick a camera in my face without permission, I’d object too.
Seems to me that this fellow did nothing to initiate such an assault on his person.
I also cannot understand why the author then brings up and re-hashes “system-wide citics” of the NHPS system.
Was this interview actually an attempt at baiting this “incident”?

posted by: Bruce on December 21, 2011  4:03pm

Wow!  Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.  First, I would like to say that I have a girl in a NHPS and don’t want this guy anywhere near her classroom with that mouth.

Second, this has got to be the WORST performance by a spokesman in the history of media relations.  This video should be played in classrooms across the country. 

Without knowing anything else about what’s going on, it now appears that they are trying desperately to hide something—as if a stroll through the school is going to expose some hideous failure or scandal.  All I can picture behind those doors now are rows and rows of sleepy children chained to their drab gray desks as a jack-booted guard stands over them with a paddle.

Time to find a new school spokesman.

posted by: jackie on December 21, 2011  4:03pm

I think today incident show that Downtown dont TRUST the New Take over so what going to happen now once children see this will it be ok for them to use FOUL Language in the Bldg

posted by: Teacher on December 21, 2011  4:05pm

Nobody wants the independent at their school because all they do is exaggerate and start problems with their inappropriate bloggers!! I say everyone should treat their reporters in the same manner until they stop brewing up controversy everywhere over nothing.

posted by: Bruce on December 21, 2011  4:11pm

Wait a minute…was that really Chris Hoffman, or was it the latest Sasha Baron Cohen character??? I think we’ve been hoaxed!

posted by: Al on December 21, 2011  4:18pm

Just to be clear, the story says he yelled, but the video doesn’t show anyone yelling. Is there more video, or are you being “creative” with your language?

posted by: JMS on December 21, 2011  4:22pm

Wow. Not sure exactly what the letter of the law is on this one but if I was holding a camera (in a public place where it was legal for me to do so) and that guy touched or grabbed it I would consider the camera an extension of my body and therefore his actions would constitute physical assault. I would then beat the s… out of him with the camera and post the footage on YouTube. ... My tax dollars employ this guy? And his purpose in the universe is?

JMS

posted by: Sickofthiscity on December 21, 2011  4:25pm

I was on the fence but this has made it crystal clear. I will not be sending my children to new haven public schools. Who cares about new buildings when the administrators are incompetent and corrupt?!

posted by: m3 on December 21, 2011  4:30pm

MrRay: “If Hoffman is an example of Renaissance Services LLC’s hiring practices I’d be very concerned about sending my children to one of their schools.”

For clarification: Mr. Hoffman works for the City of New Haven and is the spokesman for NHPS. He is not a Renaissance employee. His behavior is still appalling and unfortunately detracts from the positive efforts being made at Clemente, which is what this story seems to have been intended to cover.

posted by: streever on December 21, 2011  4:42pm

Daniel
I have a theory.

My theory is that you wouldn’t:
a. Work as the spokesman for a huge and heavily criticized school system or company
b. Invite a reporter to a public meeting which she expects to film, and then drop f-bombs while you curse and try to pull the camera out of her hands in a school

I don’t know that you can (or should) attempt to rationalize Mr. Hoffman’s behavior to yourself. Spokesmen generally realize that they may have to be on camera.

posted by: LOL on December 21, 2011  4:43pm

I have to laugh at the people here pointing the finger at the Independent.

Unlike another city daily publication, the Independent isn’t writing to appease NHPS’ brass.  The Independent exposes what truly occurs in some of our schools.

I’ve taught in this district for a decade and am disgusted by the nepotism and waste of money at 54 Meadow St.

Mayo and his staff do a great job of preaching accountability—they even do it against teachers in the city’s schools calendar.  But how and by whom are Mayo and his staff being held accountable?

Believe me, if the Independent could film what goes on at some of the city’s schools, Mayo and his crew would have some serious explaining to do to the public.

Which is why Mayo insisted on Hoffman being present for the Independent’s visit to Clemente.  Mayo and his crew will say it’s for the kids’ safety and privacy, but that isn’t exactly true.

The prearranged visits are PREARRANGED so that the school can tidy up and hunker down the problem students so visitors are duped into believing there are minimal problems.

A prime example was the mayor’s visit to Celentano last year.  Celentano’s media center consistently looked like a disaster area, papers everywhere, chairs knocked over, books hanging off shelves ...  Yet, when the mayor was to visit, the media center “suddenly” was “re-organized”—and nobody from the public would know the truth.

Sickening.

As for “teacher” and “Al” and “Daniel”...  Hoffman’s behavior is unprofessional and inexcusable, although I’m sure Mayo and his crew will find some way to spin this.  My money’s on the “for the kid’s safety” excuse!

posted by: Jon Doe on December 21, 2011  4:51pm

@ Teacher

(Nobody wants the independent at their school because all they do is exaggerate and start problems with their inappropriate bloggers!! I say everyone should treat their reporters in the same manner until they stop brewing up controversy everywhere over nothing.)

WOW are you a Teacher in China ?

posted by: zeroguns on December 21, 2011  4:55pm

“Minder!”  Where was this?  North Korea?

posted by: Anymouse on December 21, 2011  5:06pm

Having seen the creative power of editing, I can understand this mans concern about being filmed. Is there any portion before the segment you show where he explains why he does not desire to be filmed? 

Regardless, if there is not a iota of creative editing going on in this clip, I am concerned for this mans level of anger. 

Bailey, that was quite a stunt.  Thats a career wrecker.  Is your camera okay?

posted by: Ora on December 21, 2011  5:14pm

This was very disturbing to watch. I deeply resent my tax dollars going to this man’s salary. His language was atrocious considering he is a spokesperson for the NHPS. That type of language doesn’t belong in school and for that matter anywhere in public. His seething anger visible to all .. I think the new board of aldermen for their first budget fiasco should start off by several line item cuts eliminating this spokes persons and go ahead and eliminate the police department spokesman and possibly even the mayor’s spokesperson. Dr.Mayo needs to take the lead and speak for himself and so does the chief of police. Too much money is being spent and too much pampering is going on by treating these high paid administrators as if they were governors. Open your mouth and speak! That is what we the taxpayers pay your salary for Mr.Mayor,Chief Esserman and Dr.Mayo!
Back to this article in all it’s full exposure and glory! It is mind blowing that this guy did what he did and hopefully no students witnessed this. A little like the concern of bullying at school, violence in the work place, taking away your rights in a public place. What type of example are these high paid personnel setting anyway? Melissa, I am glad you cannot be intimidated easily. Thank you for exposing this type of behavior and not backing away.

posted by: MrLogical on December 21, 2011  5:23pm

It’s apparent that this guy has deep-seated issues of insecurity and is also on a power trip.  The New Haven BOE should explain to him that he’s a PUBLIC servant paid by the TAXPAYERS of New Haven and as such, it would behoove him to stop acting like some tin-pot dictator from a banana republic.  Better still, the BOE ought to fire him and find someone who can do their job without throwing juvenile temper tantrums and insulting his constituents.  If this guy is typical of the administrators in the rest of the school system, it’s s no wonder NH students are doing so poorly.

posted by: robn on December 21, 2011  5:24pm

Mr Hoffman’s ... taking intimidating action against someone else (an action that would be considered unreasonable by an ordinary person) could be considered assault whether or not touch is involved.

posted by: MrLogical on December 21, 2011  5:27pm

Question for the BOE and the Mayor:

When will Mr. Hoffamn be relieved of his duties?

posted by: Just sayin on December 21, 2011  5:34pm

... I’m sure that Mayo and DeStefano will coddle him, slap him on the wrist and off he goes to “speak” for the city at the next meeting!

GET RID OF HIM!

posted by: Shameful Behavior on December 21, 2011  5:34pm

What is ironic in this shameful display by Mr. Hoffman is that he is in charge of public relations for the district.  Maybe Dr. Mayo will write a defense of Chris Hoffman, just as he did Peggy Moore last school year.

Dr. Mayo, just what kind of school system are you running?  It makes the thinking person wonder how much of what you get published elsewhere is only smoke and mirrors.  I give the NHI a great deal of credit for reporting the stories as they are, not as the mayor, the superintendent and others want people to think they are.

It’s time for real reform in New Haven, and it isn’t happening with the current crew.

posted by: chris hoffman on December 21, 2011  5:48pm

To all who have commented on this story

I have apologized to Melissa and Paul for my conduct today. My actions were wrong and unprofessional, and I deeply regret them.

NHPS Director of Communications Christopher Hoffman

posted by: Jackz on December 21, 2011  5:49pm

This sort of thing is a disturbing trend among public officials.
It will be very interesting how the school handles press relations when it’s privatized. A private company does not have to follow access or FOI laws. Be afraid. Be very afraid, for your kids.

posted by: New Haven TV Reporter on December 21, 2011  5:51pm

Who the hell does this guy think he is?
He has some nerve to grab a
Journalist personal property.

Had he pulled this ... with me, he would have had a big problem.

New Haven TV Reporter

posted by: MrRay on December 21, 2011  5:57pm

After rereading the article I see my mistake. Mr. Hoffman is an employee of the City of New Haven, even worse. I hope he will be clearing out his desk tomorrow.

posted by: @ Morris Cove Mom! on December 21, 2011  5:58pm

“Morris Cove Mom”,
There are ways of ousting Destefano,Mayo and Hoffman. The key is within the fairly large Hispanic community and it’s power-brokers. ... It is much too obvious his bank for Immigrant/Hispanic individuals was a bust, the Immigrant Identification Card went afoul and his latest adventure was the moronic move to atempt to go to the State Capitol in Hartford where he was into trying to get the attention of state politicians for this ridiculous immigration voting proposal which he was ulitmately laughed out of their session. Does anyone else see this pattern or is this just make believe? Come on people this stinks and it is obvious someone has something on someone!

I am sure “Morris Cove Mom”, living out there in East Shore if you ask the right questions and follow the “Smoking Gun” oops! Did I reveal a subliminal message here?

Happy Hunting

posted by: Jay on December 21, 2011  5:59pm

Hate to say it but if this were a police officer doing this exact same thing there would have already been a march on city hall and police headquarters.  JUST SAYIN

posted by: Sigh on December 21, 2011  6:07pm

It’s a shame that this guy, Hoffman, has essentially ruined an opportunity for Roberto Clemente to show the great progress it is making, both in terms of academic achievement and student behaviors.

Did the Independent find anything to say about Roberto Clemente, as opposed to just focusing on an NHPS central office guy? 

I hope the Independent is looking for positive things to report about Clemente as a turn-around school, not just looking for anything negative for its red-meat readers who clearly would’ve preferred the status quo (9 years of failure) as opposed to a fresh start.

[Editor’s note: We were trying to report on a positive development at the school, but were prevented today. Check out this previous story: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/clemente_teacher/

[The issue is that we don’t report stories on life at a school with a system official present to monitor what’s said and done. We consider that artificial; the system to hire public relations companies to do that.]

posted by: MrLogical on December 21, 2011  6:13pm

This same type of problem exists in Newtown and probably other towns/cities across Connecticut: The hiring of full-time “spokespersons” or outside PR consultants (e.g., Ann Baldwin in the case of Newtown…) to develop ‘communication strategies’ for the BOEs and/or the superintendents of schools.

These chief executives (supt’s, police chiefs, etc.) are supposed to be professionals in every sense of the word and as such, it should be part of their job requirement to be able to communicate with their public.  If they can’t master the simple act of clear, unambiguous and transparent communication, they shouldn’t have their jobs. 

The example set by Mr. Hoffman is perhaps the worst that I’ve seen or heard of, and the BOE needs to step up and fire this man for cause before he does the city even more damage.

posted by: streever on December 21, 2011  6:21pm

Mr. Hoffman did something that men often do to women—he used intimidation to try and get his way and cow her into submission.

His statement should be expanded upon, and include an apology for threatening her and attempting to scare her.

Bravo to Melissa for standing her ground.

posted by: ACR on December 21, 2011  7:01pm

This ... clearly defines just why the 1st Amendment remains important.

Apparently all dealings with public officials need to be recorded.

posted by: cedarhillresident on December 21, 2011  7:08pm

Ya know streever you hit it on the head! When I watched it I got that yucky feeling. That feeling we try to teach kids to listen to, about strangers and bullys, and our daughters about men. And the only comfort I got was the strength I heard in Melissa’s voice.

Most abusers always say I am sorry when they are caught! Fire this guy! And no package deal with my tax dollars should be involved!

posted by: Ora on December 21, 2011  7:20pm

Mr.Hoffman, you think a brief two sentence apology makes this go away and will be forgotten? No it won’t because there are somethings that you can never make up for. Yes you were unprofessional and do not deserve the job or the salary we all pay for. You were once a reporter and should know better,a spokesperson should know better,an adult working within a school among students should know better. Your little tantrum was disgusting and truly the new board of aldermen should take you right out of the budget without looking back! Can’t handle the little lady huh?

posted by: Michael on December 21, 2011  7:42pm

... Ms. Bailey stood her ground, good old fashion in-your-face reporting.

posted by: @LOL on December 21, 2011  7:44pm

LOL, it’s too bad the library was a mess. There is no reason why the library at Celentano needed to be cleaned before a visit by the mayor. Obviously the librarian wasn’t doing her job.  I hope Celentano got rid of her!

posted by: Goatville mom on December 21, 2011  7:50pm

I can think of many better ways to spend $78,793 of taxpayer $.
http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/former_reg_reporter_becomes_/

posted by: adria on December 21, 2011  8:06pm

Huh. I see both sides of the issue. I don’t think he was intentionally violent, he seems uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and like he doesn’t want to be filmed and does make efforts to deal with it non violently, like walking away and calling someone to help out. You want to censor him for his language? Not very liberal. You wouldn’t like your language restricted in an article. I think anyone should have to consent to being filmed if they are not comfortable. period. public officials can be filmed in public settings. He is in a hallway, not a press conference. Is the school bathroom public too? I don’t think he acted out of intent to harm but human frustration. Needling, harassing, or provoking public officials and cops into acting out and then criticizing their response just is not constructive to me. Beyond the camera grab, she keeps repeating “don’t touch me” and he isn’t though she is stating he is. Asking “Do you mind if we film this?” isn’t that hard do. I am not up on the school issue, but I see a disturbing trend all over. Cops and public figures are people! too- good days, bad days, trying to do their job. This feels like sensationalist journalism to me, it has a provoked and staged feel. No, I don’t think its good for anyone to have the right to grab a camera but this doesn’t prove he is doing a bad job. He probably wishes he walked away first. Why is it necessary these days for violent situations to be created to get attention on issues? The issues don’t need these tactics to be addressed. A well written article could say, “Declined to appear on camera.” This signals a breakdown in the political communication process where BOTH parties lose. I think a lot of us may start screaming about our civil rights if we were forced into unwelcome filming. I am a lot more creeped out by reporter than the politician. Give people a little breathing room and chill out. We need to open 2 way doors in the political communication process, try knocking first before breaking down the door. You might get invited in for tea if you set a tone of mutual respect. I don’t know how well he does his job but I think he behaves like a fairly average human in the clip. Politicians are humans too dig? Let’s work on respect on both sides, non confrontational reporting for her and more transparency for his offices to build some bridges. Successful solutions to our society will only come through building bridges- he shouldn’t! have done it. I just don’t like the mentality of what is floating around out There is an alarming trend. She poked his person with her camera and he poked back. Great. Kindergarten. And everyone stop provoking police. They have a job to do, and it ain’t easy. Try to stand their shoes and they may be able to stand in yours. Just saying. peace. its a two way thing.

posted by: JMS on December 21, 2011  8:12pm

“Bravo to Melissa for standing her ground.”

Bravo indeed.

JMS

posted by: William Kurtz on December 21, 2011  8:17pm

Streever has a point; the language in the vestibule was ‘deeply unprofessional’ but Mr. Hoffman’s conduct towards Ms. Bailey is better characterized as ‘deeply disturbing.’ The implicit threat of actual, physical violence in his bearing and his words deserves greater scrutiny and isn’t easily dismissed by a simple apology.

posted by: Matt DeRienzo on December 21, 2011  8:28pm

Congratulations to Melissa Bailey for how she handled this! A great public service.

posted by: Leslee Atiram on December 21, 2011  8:29pm

You go girl!!!!! Let the Brooklyn come out, oh that’s my Brooklyn raging for you.

posted by: R.A. Gibson on December 21, 2011  8:46pm

I am quite disturbed that a public school employee barred a reporter from reporting to the public the proceedings of a meeting in a New Haven public school run by a private corporation. Something is seriously wrong here. What are they trying to hide? I think the Independent should file a complaint with the state Freedom Of Information Commission. Unless it is a sensitve matter of national security, the right of the taxpayers to know what their government is doing is sacred in the United States. New Haven, Connecticut is still a part of the United States and subject to the authority and the supremacy of the United States Constitution. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS, the Second Amendment, is still the law of the land. Mr. Hoffman and the New Haven Department of Education need a civics lesson.

posted by: Love the f bomb on December 21, 2011  8:53pm

I love it. In a school while at work.

Glad to have a face behind all the emails.

posted by: Threefifths on December 21, 2011  8:56pm

posted by: chris hoffman on December 21, 2011 5:48pm
To all who have commented on this story

I have apologized to Melissa and Paul for my conduct today. My actions were wrong and unprofessional, and I deeply regret them.

NHPS Director of Communications Christopher Hoffman

Apologizing - a very desperate habit - one that is rarely cured.  Apology is only egotism wrong side out.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

Now step Down.

posted by: westvillelocal on December 21, 2011  8:58pm

Calls should be made to the Mayors office and to BOE asking what coarse of action will be taken in regards to the outburst and unprofessional actions of Mr. Hoffman and his poor representation for NHPS.

posted by: VD on December 21, 2011  9:05pm

Mr. Hoffman is a product the culture Dr. Mayo has created at NHPS.  Arrogant, uses intimidation techniques, and not successful or professional in the role. 

Renaissance administers may want to limit contact with NHPS officials if they wish to be successful.  It gets a little “street” in the school halls with the PR dude yelling f*k in and looking to fight.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on December 21, 2011  9:06pm

Mayo has got to go.  He’s the one who ordered Hoffman to be there.  People obey Mayo as if he were a king.  How is it he has so much power?  How do we get him to move on so the city can have someone new running the educational system?

posted by: teacher on December 21, 2011  9:17pm

This video is extremely upsetting.  I am not sure what the problem was to begin with.  Clemente welcomes reporters and is open to inviting them into the school.  They are proud of the change, hard work, and improvement that the school making and want to show and gain New Haven’s support.  Unfortunately, Chris Hoffman has done nothing but make Clemente and Renaissance look bad and as if they have something to hide, which is not the case.  This man should not be working for the city, especially as a school advocate.  What a joke!

posted by: Charter revision on December 21, 2011  9:40pm

I am amazed that anyone would be surprised with Hoffman’s behavior.  He is simply following the lead set foe him by the Mayor wherein if you don’t like something, simply intimidate and use force.  I was under the impression that the superintendent served as the spokesperson for the district.  In fact, that falls within the preview of the current superintendent’s contract.  As such, why would we need an additional spokesperson for the job.  We now have three such people, Hoffman, DeSStefanod sometimes Mayo.

Such behavior was inevitable when things do not work the way they are claimed to work, and the powers that be want to save face.  Clemente should not have been privatized, it should have been energized.  In this era of faux reform, the only ones held accountable are the teachers and the building level administrators.  The superintendent and his ... Central Office are never ever held accountable for anything.

The spokesperson needs to go, and Reggie Mayo ought to reassume his contractual obligation to seven as spokesperson.  ... If he had any guts whatsoever, he would have gone to Clemente himself and handled the matter. ...

Expect more of this type of behavior as New Haven school officials desperately try to cover up their untested, unreliable and unproven reform.

posted by: Daniel Boardman on December 21, 2011  10:10pm

@ adria

You hit the nail squarely on the head. Initiated, no doubt planned and probably out and out staged to make a mountain out of a molehill. The NHI finds Mr Hoffman to be an easy target it seems.

Also, in this day and age, I don’t care whether the person violating my “space” is male or female. Stick anything in my face without asking my permission first and I will defend that space in no uncertain terms.

Only bullies try to stick things in others faces without any permission.

I am happy Mr Hoffman offered his personal apologies to both the author and her boss. Apparently he is merely human after all. I’d like to see the author take a similar “high road”.

posted by: MrLogical on December 21, 2011  10:34pm

It’s abundantly clear that Mr. Hoffman is not fit to the PR front man or spokesperson for any organization, least of all a school system beset with a plethora of problems and lacking credibility and transparency with the public. The NHPS needs to dismiss this man immediately and not replace him. 

If the mayor’s office and NHPS want to restore credibility with the taxpayers and parents of NH students, they need to abandon the use of paid mouthpieces and stand-ins and take on the communication role themselves. Either step up and speak with clarity and transparency to the people of New Haven or step aside and let someone else be the mayor and superintendent of schools.  There are plenty of capable people who could do both jobs without having a foul-mouthed and abusive sock-puppet acting in their stead.

The Mayor and Dr. Mayo need to address this matter in a prompt and forthright manner lest their own credibility be irreparably damaged.

posted by: Chicwa on December 21, 2011  10:35pm

Before I read this article I was blissfully unaware of Chris Hoffman’s existence. Having seen this now, I wish I could return to that state of mind.

I find it particularly interesting that he apologized “to all who have commented on this story”. Really? No apology to the reporter that he man handled? No apology to taxpayers and parents who finance this sham operation? No apology to the children, who are fed helplessly into this sausage grinder profit fest for the mayor and his cronies?

What a shame!

And would you still have apologized, Mr Hoffman, if there had not been a camera rolling, and this irrefutable evidence of your [bad behavior] had not been on display for all to see? I wonder?

New Haven is rapidly running out of eyes to be blackened. This is yet another, in a long line of DISGRACES, and you are the spokesman!

“ummm well we’re not quite transparent yet, but we will be soon, and then…..when we’re ready, you know, to be transparent, then you can all come and take a look, ohhh yes, but until then, you can’t look….even though we’re transparent now, for some people to see…..just not all….thanks…...LMFAO

posted by: Threefifths on December 21, 2011  10:42pm

posted by: adria on December 21, 2011 8:06pm
Huh. I see both sides of the issue. I don’t think he was intentionally violent, he seems uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and like he doesn’t want to be filmed and does make efforts to deal with it non violently, like walking away and calling someone to help out. You want to censor him for his language? Not very liberal. You wouldn’t like your language restricted in an article. I think anyone should have to consent to being filmed if they are not comfortable. period. public officials can be filmed in public settings. He is in a hallway, not a press conference. Is the school bathroom public too? I don’t think he acted out of intent to harm but human frustration. Needling, harassing, or provoking public officials and cops into acting out and then criticizing their response just is not constructive to me. Beyond the camera grab, she keeps repeating “don’t touch me” and he isn’t though she is stating he is. Asking “Do you mind if we film this?” isn’t that hard do. I am not up on the school issue, but I see a disturbing trend all over. Cops and public figures are people! too- good days, bad days, trying to do their job

Would you say the same for the cops of East Haven.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on December 21, 2011  10:51pm

I sure hope no students were in the area when Hoffman was yelling, threatening and using profanity in this incident. If a student used such language he probably would have been suspended. All employees of the Education Department should conduct themselves as role models of proper conduct and behavior. Who was Hoffman reporting to on his cell phone? Dr. Mayo?
Someone with such volatile and sexist behavior in a public school is a candidate for anger management and sensitivity training.
Why are taxpayer dollars wasted on such a position anyway? Can’t some of our other overpaid administrators assume some of this reponsibility of public relations? Does this really have to be a full time job. Since we have hired a private firm to run one of our public schools, shouldn’t there be fewer administrators in the New Haven Public Schools now?
Taxpayers need to pay closer attention to what goes on with our schools and the decisions the Superintendent, Mayor and unelected Board of Education make regarding the education of our young people. There is so much waste in this top heavy school system and there is frequently such a definite lack of common sense when it comes to educating our young people.
The Board of Education has always been careful and defensive when it comes to the press entering the New Haven schools. They strongly discourage teachers and students from talking to the press without their prioe knowlege and authorization. Anytime a teacher or principal wants the press to do a story on anything going on in the schools, they have had to first go through the “Director of Communications” who wouls screen whatever information might be released to the public. WHY WOULD A PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM FEAR THE PRESS REPORTING TO THE CITIZENS AND TAXPAYERS THE ACTIVITIES, POLICIES AND DECISIONS OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL OFFICIALS?
It is the duty of a free press in a democratic society to keep the public informed. We as a nation have gone around the world to spread democracy and fight tyranny. We would be fools in New Haven if we sit in silence and let democracy slip away in New Haven.
THERE SHOULD BE AN OPEN DOOR POLICY IN EVERY NEW HAVEN SCHOOL AND IN EVERY MEETING OF A SCHOOL OR THE BOARD OF EDUCATION.

posted by: Howard Eckels on December 21, 2011  11:00pm

Amazing. I take free lance photos for the news; sports, student events, science fairs, Halloween parades etc. I have NEVER had anyone tell me to turn the camera off. In fact I usually get positive comments. This involves two publications. In today’s world print journalism frequently enforces a story with video. Scarey part is this guy is probably teaching kids. This recording certainly shows total unprofessional behavior. If you have a policy against photos and video, state it up front when the appointment is made.

posted by: tony on December 21, 2011  11:15pm

Feel bad for the teachers and administrators who have been working so hard to turn this school around and have a central office bozo do this - no excuses for what took place. Let Melissa back in and see the day to day progress that is occurring - this is a great effort at turning around a bad situation - why someone like Hoffman is allowed to be involved is unfortunate.

posted by: Nick on December 22, 2011  12:13am

@ Adria, Daniel Boardman:

Reread the article and you’ll see that it was Mr. Hoffman who turned up unannounced at the school, not the NHI. If anyone was trying to spark a confrontation, it was him.

posted by: robn on December 22, 2011  12:20am

DANIELBOARDMAN,

The job definition of a professional spokesperson is for them to be recorded, representing the opinion of their employer, and to hopefully be diplomatic in the process.

It appears in the video that at least 50% of the time, the reporter is cautiously approaching the subject. In the remaining 50% of the video, the reporter is physically backing away from the subject and not “sticking” something in the subject’s face.

This is unfortunate and disappointing and really, as other commenter’s have written, is a product of Dr Mayos leadership (or lack thereof).

posted by: myhood on December 22, 2011  1:55am

When did the NHI become a TMZ wannabe? Is Melissa Bailey auditioning for Fox News or something? No apology should be necessary, A rude action deserves a rude response.

posted by: adria on December 22, 2011  5:24am

I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I just wish we could all figure out how to get along better in this world for more effective solutions. It is just a sad situation that it has come to this. Peace is everybody’s responsibility. How can we teach it to kids if we don’t know how to make it work? Its frustrating. Too much fighting means not enough solutions.

posted by: John D'Andre on December 22, 2011  5:48am

Dr. Mayo has always been a gentleman and has charted a solid course for New Haven schools over the last 20 years. Why does he retain someone the unstable ilk of Chris Hoffman? This isn’t the first time Chris has become hostile with reporters. It’s ironic. It is also scary in this latest video and has me wondering if he is a risk to faculty, staff and students at New Haven Public Schools? Dr. Mayo you are a smart, forward thinking man…..Chris Hoffman isn’t any of those things.

posted by: LOL on December 22, 2011  6:58am

@DANIELBOARDMAN ...
You are forgetting that Ms. Bailey had a scheduled appointment at the school.  NHPS had to know that she would bring a camera because she did so for previous articles—and with the blessing of NHPS.

NHPS doesn’t hesitate to boast about itself regarding initiatives and transparency.  So why the need for a PR director when the press checks on the progress of how an outside company is running a city school?

No doubt Mayo sent Hoffman to “control” the situation, which, as Ms. Bailey notes, is hardly transparent.

@HOFFMAN—Here’s hoping Mayo came down on you as hard as he comes down on teachers—from his fortress at 54 Meadow St.

posted by: NHPS Parent on December 22, 2011  7:17am

This is deeply disturbing.  If this man is willing to treat a reporter like this, it makes me wonder how he would treat our children in the school system.  I plan on writing my alderman regarding this matter and I would hope others would do the same.

posted by: solsbury on December 22, 2011  7:30am

Of course Hoffman was wrong…
but so was the reporter
As a teacher we are told that recording devices are not allowed in schools… parents have to give permission for students to be filmed/used…
Teachers do as well.
The NHI consistently treats students, especially those of color, as if they have no rights and exist just to give them stories. The reporter had no right to record/film anything.. it wasn’t a meeting, it wasnt a public place, ‘t was a hallway on a school day.

[Editor’s note: Our reporter had the permission of the both school board and the school’s principal to do that story in the school. She had full permission to use the camera and interview people. This was set up days in advance—contrary to what this poster is alleging, there is a process for doing interviewing and recording in school, and we followed it. Also note: Christopher Hoffman is not “of color” under the standard usage of the term.]

posted by: to myhood on December 22, 2011  8:28am

posted by: myhood on December 22, 2011 1:55am
“No apology should be necessary, A rude action deserves a rude response.”


Thank you, myhood, for demonstrating exactly what is wrong with a common mindset in many communities today - that it is acceptable to respond with bad behavior to another person’s bad actions/statements.

With this mentality, you have self-perpetuating violence and offence. That old saying, “two wrongs do not make a right” is relevant here.

posted by: robn on December 22, 2011  8:50am

SOLSBURY,

Even if the reporter didn’t have permission to film students (which she did) the unscheduled arrival of an outside monitor/spokesperson who has a track record of obfuscation (being opposite of his job description) is a newsworthy event; likewise the filming took place in a hallway when students were in their classes.

In any event, public officials shouldn’t be camera adverse because if somethings good enough to say, its good enough to record.

posted by: JMS on December 22, 2011  8:59am

I have decided to send an email to my alderman expressing my distress and disappointment in Mr. Hoffman’s (1) presence at this interview, (2) behavior at this interview and (3) obvious lack of qualifications for a what appears to be a tax payer funded fluff public relations job that probably shouldn’t exist anyway. Can we find out what his salery is and post it so we know just how many teachers, assiatants and/or janitors were laid off to make room for his pointless existence (jobs that actually make a difference in the quality of our children’s education and school experience)? I encourage everyone to write to their alderperson as well. Let’s run this clown out of town. You don’t get to behave like that and then just walk away with a weak two line apology on the internet. A bully is a bully at any age even when spiffed up in a cheap suit. And a bully needs to be put in his place. I intend to do my best to contribute to that effort.

JMS

posted by: concerned parent on December 22, 2011  9:19am

Like all of us, Chris Hoffman is entitled to an occasional bad day and a few stupid decisions. However, his behavior is part of a consistent pattern of obfuscation and belligerence toward any who dare to question the NHPS. The hostility that parents, taxpayers and the media face whenever they deviate from their assigned cheerleading role makes it look like NHPS is trying desperately to hide something. When people always act like they have something to hide, chances are they do.  Something stinks at 54 Meadow Street.  Keep digging, NHI!

posted by: streever on December 22, 2011  9:32am

JMS
I believe he makes almost 90k salary, plus benefits.

posted by: brutus2011 on December 22, 2011  9:35am

With respect to everyone, the criticism heaped on Hoffman is possible proof of why his position exists.

Positions such as these may exist to insulate those at the very top of the extreme top-down management model that is NHPS and City Hall.

“Getting rid” of Chris Hoffman will do nothing to fundamentally change the culture at NHPS and City Hall. Or to positively impact student outcomes.

I submit that Hoffman’s action were largely motivated by fear of his superiors if something embarrassing were to become public.

Am I trying to excuse his unfortunate behavior?

I am trying to point out that these administrators are smart and they know how to manipulate public perception. They have been at it for a long time. (Thomas Jefferson was in favor of term limits as well as our own Threefifths!)

The hopeful thing is that public perception may be changing to a more realistic view of what really goes on inside of NHPS.

Lets fervently hope so for the sake of our kids and our collective future.

posted by: myhood on December 22, 2011  9:53am

So, you do admit that she was wrong

[Editor: No. The reporter did nothing wrong. She was professional. She followed procedures. She was calm and polite.]

posted by: Dan Kennedy on December 22, 2011  9:55am

@streever: Did Hoffman really drop an F-bomb? I’ve watched it twice. I thought he did, but then decided he didn’t. Will have to put the earbuds in for a closer listen.

posted by: myhood on December 22, 2011  10:08am

regarding your editor’s note, she was not interviewing anyone, she seemed to be attempting to provoke a response just for a story. And to excuse her bad behavior, she rehashes a completely unrelated story from Cross
High. She made the story about her, never mind the students she supposedly cares about.

[Note: She was trying to interview students and teachers. She had permission to do that. The school spokesman insisted on being present at every step and for every conversation, preventing, in our view, a real conversation or classroom experience to take place.]

posted by: streever on December 22, 2011  10:18am

@Dan
Right at 0:44, as he walks out, he says, “I am not fing stalking her”—the f bomb is the louder of the words. I am using headphones—I did have to turn the volume up.

@MyHood
Story as I’ve read it so far:
1. Melissa schedules interviews with parents & teachers, and informs school she will be recording, per policy
2. NHPS agrees
3. Chris Hoffman shows up and starts to interfere in the story
4. Chris Hoffman insists the camera be turned off, and directly threatens Melissa

Maybe you are reading something different? or simply don’t believe the NHI & Hoffman, who apologized, and think more is going on?

posted by: Dan Kennedy on December 22, 2011  10:37am

@streever: Agreed. I put in the earbuds and could clearly hear the F-bomb. Giving it a little wider play here: http://www.dankennedy.net/2011/12/22/an-ugly-confrontation-leads-to-an-apology/

posted by: westvillelocal on December 22, 2011  10:42am

“Getting rid” of Chris Hoffman will do nothing to fundamentally change the culture at NHPS and City Hall. Or to positively impact student outcomes.”

One positive impact of getting rid of Mr. Hoffmans unnecessary position would be 80-90K more per year we could maybe, for fun lets say…., maybe more students could actually have textbooks for the classes they are in?

posted by: david wilson on December 22, 2011  10:43am

This is outrageous behavior on the part of the press spokesman. i’ve been in journalism for 33 years, and have rarely seen someone so unfit for his job. Melissa had permission to be in the school and conduct interviews. He shows up to interfere and make demands on her. It was totally irresponsible on his part, and he deserves to be disciplined for his actions. So glad I’m not sending my kids to New Haven schools!

posted by: solsbury on December 22, 2011  11:08am

A school hallway is NOT “a public place”. Interviewing/observing students, especially those with learning difficulties, especially on camera, especially 3yr olds-12 yr olds, is not something parents give permission for reporters to do whenever they want.  Just because the school said it is OK to observe a class, doesn’t mean a reporter can interview a student and take down their name and broadcast their learning (as this reporter has done many times). And the school can’t give permission without parent say so. There are privacy laws, not that the NHI has ever cared about them (and not that Hoffman knows them either). I’m sure if the NHI quoted some Cross teenager without parent’s permission, there would be an uproar… but I guess Clemente parents’ rights don’t count.

[Editor’s note: The Independent had full permission to photograph kids in the class, which she pre-arranged with the district and the principal to visit. In all city schools, parents sign release forms to allow photos of their kids to be published in the media. The Independent checks with the school to ensure that all children whose photos are to appear in the NHI have proper release forms. In sensitive cases, we often talk to the parents to make sure they’re comfortable with the story before it’s published. In this case, there was no photographing or videotaping of any schoolkids. When the reporter took out her camera, it was not to videotape children, but to capture an interview in the hallway with the spokesman about why he insisted on interfering with a routine, pre-arranged classroom visit by insisting that a district official be present to monitor the interviews.]

posted by: LOL on December 22, 2011  11:23am

@ John D’Andre—Mayo is NOT a gentleman, nor is he forward thinking.  He covers his rear, that is what he does.  Check the facts:  How many of his initiatives have failed?  And why does he get so many chances to launch new initiatives?  Ask Mayo whatever happened to his “Five Bold Goals” ... LOL!

Further, Mayo rules with arrogance and little concern for others from his fortress at 54 Meadow St.  (SHOULDN’T HIS HEADQUARTERS BE AT A SCHOOL?!)  ...

Mayo needs to be held accountable.

posted by: Gary Doyens on December 22, 2011  12:14pm

It’s nice that Hoffman proffered his apologies. Now, where is Mayo’s for sending him there to begin with? Did either of them learn anything?

Props to Melissa Bailey. Cool, calm, respectful and you kept shooting. Great stuff and real class. The people critiquing Baily would do best to remember, the public’s right to know trumps almost everything, and most definitely trumps Hoffman and the NHPS brass in this case.

That reporters in this city have to fight for stories, and play hide and seek with this administration on so many levels is just wrong. It is rooted in corruption and manipulation by people who have something to lose, and therefore they try to hide information and limit access. What this administration fails to understand despite repeated lessons, is that keeping the public in the dark does not foster trust. Knowledge, information and being informed allows the public to know what their tax dollars are doing and to attach a value to that activity.

Then again, perhaps that’s precisely of which they are afraid.

posted by: EthanJRT on December 22, 2011  12:57pm

The second video is absolutely hilarious - particularly the clear mental strain involved in the logical contortions the man is trying to perform, and then the giggling fit as some part of him realizes that what he’s saying makes absolutely no sense.

This new video, though, is a little less funny. I’d prefer that this guy NOT be fired, simply because being so bad at obfuscation means that the truth is more likely to come out; but realistically, I don’t think we can expect him to hold onto his job much longer.

posted by: JMS on December 22, 2011  1:13pm

Streever,

“I believe he makes almost 90k salary, plus benefits”

Thanks.

Let’s forget all about the confrontation for the moment. Based on what I observed in the other video clip I assume Hoffman is paid $90,000 to NOT answer questions? Where can I apply for this job? Where does one get training for this? The Scott McClellan Academy of Bulls…? I don’t know what is more disturbing… his bad behavior (everyone can have a bad day) or just the existence of his position and salary in a city and climate (and school system) of dire budget issues.

JMS

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