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Schools Spokesman Resigns

by Staff | Dec 23, 2011 9:18 pm

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

Two days after an outburst in which he grabbed an Independent reporter’s camera and demanded she stop filming, schools spokesman Chris Hoffman announced his resignation. 

Hoffman submitted a letter of resignation Friday, according to city spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton.

“It was his own decision,” she said.

His departure comes on the heels of a confrontation with the Independent’s managing editor Melissa Bailey at the Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy.

When Bailey announced she’d be interviewing him on video in the hallway, he grabbed her Nikon D3100 camera and demanded she “turn the camera off!” Read the full account here, and watch the video above.

Hoffman apologized after the incident: “I apologize to Melissa Bailey for my conduct today. It was wrong and unprofessional, and I deeply regret my actions,” he said.

Hoffman, a former investigative reporter at the New Haven Register, joined the district in February. He is the spokesman for all schools in the public school district, including Clemente, which is being managed by an outside company as a turnaround school.

His resignation takes effect next month, according to school reform czar Garth Harries.

“Chris resigned effective the end of January. He did that with deep apologies and deep regrets. He understands that that kind of job is one in which the demands of behavior are high. A public job is a place of scrutiny, a place of pressure, and regardless of the circumstances, what happened didn’t represent what he needed to do and what the school district is trying to do with school reform.

“Chris is someone who came to us without education experience and worked hard to understand” and to help the public understand the city’s school reform drive, Harries continued.

“We understand the decision, and we’re sad to see him go.”

Harries said there has been no discussion as to whether to fill the job once Hoffman departs. The job carries a $78,793 salary.

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posted by: John D'Andre on December 23, 2011  10:39pm

I am pleased to hear of the resignation.

I felt the wrath of Chris Hoffman back in the fall 0f 2000 in a story he wrote when I served as treasurer of a very powerful Political Action Committee. The PAC followed all state Election Enforcement rules yet he wrote a story that was replete with inferences of impropriety. I spent weeks doing spin control thanks to the damage he did from his Sargent Drive office….never once interviewing me to get the facts. I would have been happy to show him all of our filings, etc. He chose the low road.

Hit the road Hoffman.

posted by: myhood on December 23, 2011  10:54pm

Great job Melissa and Paul, who is next on your hit list? Maybe you can provoke someone else you don’t like by being rude, like the mayor or the new police chief. Think big people!

posted by: Jon Doe on December 23, 2011  11:06pm

Great Job NHI Melissa Bailey. You showed what the Mayors people are really like when the light is shined on them. Since the Nov election the Mayor seems to be clean house. I hope people remember this in 2 years at the next election.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 23, 2011  11:21pm

When will Mayo follow Hoffman’s example? And Clark? It’s time to clean house.

posted by: LOL on December 23, 2011  11:30pm

Good, the city should sink the $78,793 back into the schools where it’s needed.

Mayo has a doctorate.  Let him speak for himself and the district.

posted by: Ora on December 23, 2011  11:37pm

He did the right thing and certainly was not suited for the job. I think the job should be eliminated completely. If the mayor needs a spokes person, perhaps OK, but still believe he should be able to speak for himself and if he is not available,he’s not available period! The school and police departments should not have a spokes person at all. Too extravagant in this economic times. Administrators are paid way too much money not to speak for themselves. This is not Washington this is a small city with a budget that shouldn’t be supporting these type of positions. Lets hope this new board of aldermen start looking at these type of positions and start eliminating them one by one. This administration is so top heavy it is a sin.

posted by: workers of new haven unite on December 24, 2011  12:04am

who hired him? what were they thinking? i find it hard to believe that he didnt put off any of these controlling, ill-judgement vibes in the interview. will this job be filled? it shouldnt be. update: union member janitors pink-slipped before christmas and mr. mayors hanging with strikers. a lot just doesn’t add up. king john sends 1984-esque letters to hardworking principals potentially engaged in the democratic process? gross. or as streeverites say: creepy. tiny tim cries in the corner as mr. dickens wished he came up with it all himself. merry christmas to all and to all a good night.  workers of new haven unite.

posted by: Blame the Mayor on December 24, 2011  12:15am

Do not re-fill the position, the superintendent of the district should do his own speaking.
Hire another teacher or two with the savings.

posted by: Commuter on December 24, 2011  12:50am

Congratulations Melissa, this is a victory for you professionally; you showed courage too, so it is a victory for you personally. Well done. You’ve earned a lot of respect.

...Good riddance.

posted by: Fearful on December 24, 2011  2:34am

Personally, I was beginning to get disgusted with the seeming “revolving door” syndrome between the local media personnel and the city hall staffers. It’s refreshing to see that the NHI has not given in to that temptation. We need truly independent journalists who call it as they see it, without fear of losing a future cushy job. My hat is off to Paul and Melissa for taking the tough stands in the interest of bringing the events that take pace in the dark into the light.

posted by: JMS on December 24, 2011  12:00pm

Victory! I would like to thank the members of the Academy, my fellow feisty NHI bloggers, Melissa Baily and everyone else who made resignation happen. Power to the people. Since he posted an apology here we all know for a fact that Hoffmann read the coverage and comments here on the NHI and maybe for the first time that I can remember in a while those comments may have actually contributed to some real world positive change. Blog on concerned New Haven residents. Blog on.

JMS

posted by: Virginia Blaisdell on December 24, 2011  12:23pm

You ROCK, Melissa!

posted by: Bruce on December 24, 2011  1:20pm

While his outburst certainly makes this decision appropriate, it’s probably worth stepping back and looking at this in some perspective.  This job is an extremely unenviable position.  You have to ignore your own values to promote someone else’s (I am making assumptions here about what a former journalist might think about transparency in the school system). 

He lost his temper—like many of us might, but in his position that’s a death blow.  Came right before Christmas, too.  A lot of the anger and name-calling I’ve read goes a bit too far.

posted by: JMS on December 24, 2011  6:55pm

Bruce,

In this case I believe the ends easily justify the means. By your definition this is indeed an extremely unenviable position. If there is any reason to step back and look at this in broader terms it would be to question the very existence of a tax payer funded position that by definition requires some one to essentially creatively lie and/or evade truthfully answering legitimate questions of the press and the concerned public. This is something we need on the city payroll? Really? Regardless of this particular incident and this particular (former) city employee I think a good thing just happened and I would seriously hope that the validity and purpose of this position be carefully evaluated before anyone is rehired.

JMS

posted by: Bruce on December 25, 2011  2:09am

JMS, I’m not sure I can agree.  It’s a 173 MILLION dollar a year operation with kids’ futures at stake.  There’s a lot that can and does go wrong due to public perception. At the very least they need someone to write press releases, but more importantly they need the public to know when investments and initiatives are effective.  This can be accomplished without deceit or stonewalling.

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on December 25, 2011  9:25am

As I’ve followed this story here and read the many comments from the NHI readers concerning this incident, two things disturb me. 1. The videotaped behavior of the Schools’ Spokesman Mr. Chris Hoffman.  2. The hidden (and mostly un-commented upon) behavior of Ms. Melissa Bailey, the NHI Reporter.

Conventional wisdom says that “Pictures never lie.”  Conventional wisdom, while strong, is wrong.  Pictures always lie, or at least can be made to lie, that is: intentionally distort the truth.  That said, and knowing how the news media often creates sensationalism in the never-ending attempt to draw attention to ITSELF, if not to the issues (the better to sell Advertisements - hence proving that they are better business people than they are journalist) I am willing to withhold judgment about the encounter between Mr. Hoffman and Ms. Bailey until I can see the ENTIRE encounter, not just the edited version placed here, seemingly in an attempt to present Mr. Hoffman at his worse in this situation. 

To be sure, Hoffman does and says things here that are inappropriate. And MAYBE his resignation is warranted; I can’t say with so little evidence about his overall performance history or based on an edited video provided by the media whose interest, I believe, is biased. 

While much has been made of Mr. Hoffman’s words and actions that day little, VERY LITTLE, has been said about Ms. Bailey’s. For instance, why does she (hidden off camera) keep saying “Don’t touch me, Chris.”  Who is touching her?  He NEVER touched her. 

But instead of keeping to the fact that Mr. Hoffman touched her camera once (a normal action by a person who does not wish to be filmed - though inappropriate for a professional spokesman), a fact that HE had to point out, Ms. Bailey raises the sensationalism of this situation by repeatedly pleading: “Don’t touch me.”

My question is: Why is she saying this? Why does she give the impression that her person is being threatened?  The combination of her disembodied plaintive plea coupled with the image of a clearly irritated Mr. Hoffman gives an impression here that may not be entirely accurate.  Yeah, pictures (and videotapes) can be made to lie.

Further, I would be interested in knowing what happened PRIOR to the camera being turned on? Or what happened prior to the part that appears on this obviously edited video?  What was the conversation?  What was the exchange?  Did Ms. Bailey strategically turn the camera on after the situation had already turned tensed, knowing that Mr. Hoffman’s image, not hers, would be recorded?  And would she have acknowledged on camera that he had not touched her, had he not warned her against saying the opposite? It seems unlikely, as she repeatedly said the opposite though the opposite was not true. 

It is easy to bandwagon this situation and criticize Mr. Hoffman alone, especially due to the fact that people have legitimate suspicions concerning the way New Haven politics seem to work at the highest levels.  It is better, however, to attempt objectivity here.  It seems as if both of these professionals were inappropriate.  Unfortunately, the readers here seem to support punitive actions against only one of them.

posted by: brutus2011 on December 25, 2011  10:46am

Shakespeare wrote that there was something rotten in the State of Denmark. (Hamlet)

And we look at Chris Hoffman as the bad guy.

We should be looking at the source of the rot.

A fish rots from its head.

posted by: rwcowles on December 25, 2011  11:05am

These educators are smug, arrogant robbers and thieves. They promote only themselves. Education of children, the welfare of the country does not enter into the equation for them. Good riddance to this person, he is a man in gender only. Thank this female reporter for exposing him to the public.

posted by: JMS on December 25, 2011  2:55pm

Bruce,

I hear you. I’m not saying the position is 100% pointless… just pointless if all it winds up doing is serve as a barrier to public information rather then a source. I know it sounds crazy but I was under the impression that a public information official was supposed to actually inform the public. Maybe this wacky concept could be considered when the position is filled.

JMS

posted by: Ron Cowles on December 25, 2011  8:49pm

Teaching and Schools have quickly become a public works project. Teaching children does not enter into the equation. Especially since more than 80% of town budgets goes to teacher compensation. Teacher unions have stated,“they do not represent the children” so the children are not their concern. Making money for the teachers is.
  I personally have been involved in the fight for better education for our children. What I have found is appalling. Buckets of monies are given to teachers in budgets with little or no accountability. The money is spent and taxes get raised to fill the bucket back up.
  One thing should be understood. I don’t really care how much a teacher makes as long as his compensation is related to his proficiency at teaching. It is alarming to think that once a teacher get his/her tenure the educating dwindles. It has become a culture.
  In my town,Lebanon,CT, the children are very rarely mentioned. Our rate of proficiency is near 50%. That means almost every other child fails. Amazing, eh? Yet the teachers continue to get raises.Teachers think they deserve more dough.
  While all this is becoming more and more apparent we have to deal with a person such as this Hoffman, or someone exactly like him. Someone that is capable to use the letter of the law to obscure the Peoples right to engage. Someone that is the “voice” of the Board of Education of any municipality. It happens everyday in one or another small town or municipality. The “People” are ignored and thwarted at every move for a better education for their child. While Boards of Education continue to show no respect for the people they have been elected or placed to represent.
  Until the “People” stand and say this condition cannot continue, it will. We have to be determined to be able to trust those we “pay” to do the job they were hired to do. Not just pay attention to their own self-interests. Themselves…

posted by: MrLogical on December 25, 2011  8:52pm

Hoffman’s gone.  That’s a good start but more need to fall on their swords.  Hopefully, his position won’t be replaced.  NHPS officials - Dr. Mayo, et al. - need to communicate for THEMSELVES and not hide behind paid, PR mouthpieces.  This is the problem with virtually all government elected officials - federal, state and local:  They aren’t held personally accountable and they insulate themselves from their constituencies with paid PR flacks who obfuscate and deflect.  The problem is rooted in the fact that all government agencies become “too big for their own good” at some point, and begin to spend taxpayer money with impunity in order to protect themselves from tough questions and criticism.  This problem is best explained by Milton Friedman’s “Four Ways To Spend Money” tutorial.  Every taxpayer and public official needs to see this informative video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RDMdc5r5z8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

posted by: Uncle Egg on December 26, 2011  2:20am

Enough with the personal attacks already. I’ve known Chris for a long time. He’s a good guy, a family man who took a nasty job because he needed the work. He lost his temper when he shouldn’t have, and ultimately I think he did the right thing by resigning. I’m not defending what he did, but I think the loss of a job is punishment enough without the entire community declaring him to be a “creep.” He certainly is not.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on December 26, 2011  8:17am

Will Mayo be held responsible at all for sending Hoffman there in the first place?

posted by: Tom Burns on December 26, 2011  9:14pm

Happy Holidays Melissa and Paul—
you make the world a better place and are fair and honest every step of the way (wish Rupert Murdoch would take your lead) You have done so much to get and keep the conversation going on sooo many subjects that need to be talked about——-you have my respect and I hope you just keep on pushing the package—please continue to challenge us all—I know you have made me better———All the best—Tom

And to Mr. Carolina——your creed and integrity are what you are all about——we can use more people like you—-in solidarity with our competent principals—Tom Burns

posted by: Lynda Faye Wilson on December 27, 2011  10:25am

Mr. Hoffman may have come aboard without education experience, but he is a smart man to resign. The school system is so crooked and screwed up, close and complete coverage is needed by the community. There is certainly enough violent action going on in this city, the community, school staffing and mainly the students DON’T NEED DEMONSTRATION OF WHAT TO DO WHEN ONE DOESN’T LIKE WHAT ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL DOES IN THE LINE OF THEIR ASSIGNMENT (JOB). VERY SMART MOVE BY HOFFMAN. THERE IS MUCH MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IN OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT NEEDS TO BE GIVEN. Better than $78,000.00 can be better utilized I sure.

posted by: Unbelievable on December 27, 2011  2:47pm

Chris Hoffman has resigned but Dr. Mayo and John DeStefano are at the root of the problems that are occupying the attention and energy of so many. The NH administrative system is infected at the very CORE.

...
Some of us find some of the Rev. Ross-Lee’s comments to be instructive and also a little curious.  Clearly the Rev. is an intelligent man.  Others have commented on the fact that Melissa Bailey kept addressing Hoffman by his first name as if they know each other; they do. Here is a section from an article written by Ms. Bailey in Feb. 2011 when Hoffman was announced as the new spokesman for the NHPS.  “Superintendent Reggie Mayo said while he has declined to fill other vacancies, he considers the communications position to be “critical.”
“Hoffman worked for many years at the New Haven Register, where he made a reputation as an investigative reporter. He served as Attorney General Blumenthal’s last official spokesman, through the end of his term in 2010. Hoffman also wrote a five-part series last year for the Independent on the heyday of New Haven’s mafia.”  This is essentially saying that in writing this series Hoffman worked for the NHI; Ms. Bailey is the managing editor. This makes it all the more strange why he would behave as he did.

Rev. Ross-Lee’s comments about the media’s positioning of information to attract more advertisements do not apply to the NHI because the journal does not advertise.  Ms. Bailey was holding the camera to record what was going on in front of her, so clearly she could not be in the video unless someone else was recording her. Maybe the good Rev. was simply pointing out the obvious.  As has occurred many times before the tone of his comments and his title seem a little incongruous. There are many people in NH and elsewhere who could benefit from the insights being shared by the good Reverend; if only these insights could be shared without the assignations of blame and the implication of deviousness.

All of these interrelated stories and their implications—the Hoffman Fiasco, the Carolina investigation at Hillhouse (and the truly bizarre aspects of how that was presented: the principal not being informed, an attorney being brought in; an emergency meeting called at 6pm on a holiday weekend), the overt lack of probing of what has been alleged to be going on at Wilbur Cross, the seeming shakedown of NH City employees during the recent mayoral election campaign, and the Kafkaesque quality of the note from John DeStefano as well as his appearance and comments in the article – cry out for an independent and thorough investigation of what is going on in NH.  Teachers and other ancillary staff in the NHPS system cannot educate effectively in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and hostility.  Most importantly, children are being deprived of the full attention of their teachers; they are being short-changed while political hay is made.

When there are rumors about special connections between administrators, Dr. Mayo and the Mayor, and teachers see one administrative leader being attacked while another seems to have carte blanche to do as she pleases, we can only imagine the trepidation with which some teachers try to function everyday.  We do not agree with Mr. Carolina that he can conduct his own investigation; that is neither logical nor wise.  We do believe there should be an independent investigation by an objective and competent third party, not only of Hillhouse but also of Wilbur Cross, Metropolitan and any other school where there are reports of fraudulent conduct.  Such investigation should not be done by an attorney with a tainted history. The children in the NHPS should NOT be made to suffer the consequences of the adults’ malfeasance. The sooner this can be done and appropriate remedies put in place the better it will be for the City of New Haven.

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on December 28, 2011  12:20am

“Some of us find some of the Rev. Ross-Lee’s comments to be instructive and also a little curious”

This is FUNNY!!!!  Are the comments placed here being done by committee now?  Who is “us”???? 

Anyhow, I guess any attempt at objectivity would be taken as “curious” in this town, since truly independent voices and views simply can’t be tolerated here.  Hence, the incessant demands for me to endorse a Candidate for Mayor, which I flatly refuse to do, or to allow political candidates of any stripe to campaign from Immanuel’s pulpit while running for elective office.

The suggestion by “Unbelievable” that my “tone” is “incongruous” with my title is funny also.  I guess you (or as we would say “down South”, Y’all) have determined just the proper “tone” (and volume?) at which a person who holds my title should communicate.  Lovely, just LOVELY. 

“I’s guess I’s should be sho to watch ma tone so as not to ‘fend you good folks next time I’s ‘lowed to put down my petty thoughts on pepa.” (For those who don’t know why I reverted to Dialect here, well, ask somebody.)

But let me ask this, why is it ok for virtually everyone who came on here and criticized Mr. Hoffman for his actions acceptable to “us” - as Y’all didn’t take an issues with their “assignations of blame and the implication of deviousness.”, but, my attempt to look objectively at both sides of what happened that day somehow worrisome?  Yeah, this IS funny?  Now, would this fall into that oft simplistically stated category of people with my “title” being held to some mythical “higher” standard”?  LoLoLoL (No, REALLY, I AM Laughing Out Loud at this foolishness.)

I noticed in all of your criticism (one could hardly call it a “critique”) of my comments, you failed to address the most important one.  Why is Ms. Bailey insisting of saying “don’t touch me” when she is NOT being touched?  Why does she attempt to create the perception that she is being physically threatened, when she is not?

I have dealt with the media in this town and others.  I am well aware that the sense of objectivity that we should be able to expect from them simply doesn’t exist when they desire to tell a story a particular way.  And I have witnessed with my own eyes an incident very similar to this one, where the “reporter” attempted to create a perception of the event that simply did not exist, by claiming a physical threat that simply I was not there.  I won’t ask your pardon for my “tone” and “assignation of blame”, but I do have reason to be just as skeptical of the media as I do of the government.  And if y’all were wise, you too would learn the meaning of a healthy hermeneutic of suspicion when it comes to either of these powerful entities in our lives. I think the Latin phrase for this is “omnibus dubitandum”. 
By the way, I really, truly, immensely enjoy being given advice on what I say and how I say it in a public forum by PEOPLE who hide behind pseudonyms and aliases.  That’s called throwing a rock and hiding your hand; a lot of that is done in this town too. That part to me is the part that’s really “unbelievable”.

posted by: RWCowles on December 28, 2011  10:43am

Please, lets cut the Bull…t.
  To trust the press is doubtful. They serve their own master. Any time I have offered evidence to, or asked their help they have refused. That being said the problem remains. Education and the people we pay to do the job. Quite a bit of money if you ask me for very little productivity.
  The problem, as I see it, is that a tug-of-war is going on between the teachers unions and the Boards of Education. As I have witnessed, most Boards are made up of rank amateurs. They have no negotiating skills. They have allowed the teachers unions to be able to claw out large chunks of budgets for themselves. Forgetting all about the children.
  The children have no one to represent them. They are overlooked by the Boards. Oh there’s a lot of rhetoric,hollow words about how much they care but it comes up failing.I think, witnessing, that most of the Board members act bored, miss-placed wanting only the prestige of the seat they are in.
  The Boards follow State mandates to the letter of the law. They think that is enough. It isn’t. There is a moral and ethical imperative to consider. I have yet witnessed anyone going against the grain in my town of Lebanon,CT. No one! Our Board spends great amounts of time crossing T’s and dotting the I’s and thats it. There is absolutely no inspiration going on. No fighting for the oppressed, the children. All for their own prestige. They think they’re doing something when actually they are…they are letting not only the education of our children fail but they are willing to let our Country fail also.
  We cannot ignore how complete our own individual responsibility is to the next generations. We have ignored this responsibility completely. Our main intent in this life has become to make ourselves as completely comfortable as we can. Ignoring all but ourselves.
  We get what we deserve. Payday is coming.

posted by: Yes We Can! on December 29, 2011  9:22am

Amen, Reverend.  Amen, Amen, Amen!

posted by: Jmills on December 29, 2011  4:10pm

Oh this is rich:

His resignation takes effect next month, according to school reform czar Garth Harries.

“Chris resigned effective the end of January. He did that with deep apologies and deep regrets. He understands that that kind of job is one in which the demands of behavior are high. A public job is a place of scrutiny, a place of pressure, and regardless of the circumstances, what happened didn’t represent what he needed to do and what the school district is trying to do with school reform.’

Chris is an experienced reporter and was PR guy for Blumenthal for a long time.

The only mistake I have ever seen him make was going to work for a tried and true Destefano ‘battered wife’ aka NHschools. 

As for Melissa and Paul, I’d have a lot more respect for them if they didn’t suppress egregious mistreatment of other reporters while laying down heavy overstated rhetoric when they meet laughably minor resistance.

Try going through two cars covering a story only to have your self-serving colleagues try to horn in on your work (unsuccessfully) while suppressing the news of what is being done to you. 

Assault? Stalking? You don’t know what that is. It’s offensive to reporters who have been stalked and assaulted, hounded and terrorized to listen to this or read this.

Get a life, both of you

posted by: Dorthula Green on January 5, 2012  10:41am

I only had a few encounters with Chris Hoffman and they have been professional and courteous.  Of course, I’m not a reporter looking for a story.  I’m sorry that Chris ‘resigned’...not because I know the quality of his work, but because we have become such a mean spirited society.  High profile positions are tough.  It’s never good to see someone lose a job in this economy.  I don’t think that what’s happening at Clemente is best for the children of New Haven.  I’ve been a ‘scapegoat and it’s no fun.  As much as I like the Independent, I suspect that there is much more to this video/story.  Blessings to you Chris Hoffman.

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