Want To Trash A Board Member? Line Up

Christopher Peak PhotoMembers of the public took turns calling New Haven’s Board of Education members hypocrites, incompetents, failures, unethical sleazes — and perhaps lowest of all, politicians — as tempers inside Beecher School matched the temperatures outside.

That happened Monday night at the public comment — or perhaps more accurately, the public berating — portion of the regular bimonthly meeting of the school board.

Outside it was 86 degrees, inside, hotter, as board members mostly silently endured a particularly scorching edition of what has become a ritual public stoning.

During the pile-on, board member Carlos Torre diligently took notes on the criticism, Mayor Toni Harp checked her mobile phone and member Che Dawson silently signaled when the speaker’s three minutes were up.

“Y’All Been Out of Order!”

Christopher Peak PhotoAs the board opened the public comment portion of the meeting, Rev. Boise Kimber, who this spring failed to convince the board to let him open an all-boys’ charter school, led off the assault. He proposed that board members file disclosure forms, listing their family members and business conflicts of interest, and he dinged them for how they’ve handled hiring a new superintendent.

“Now, if you all think we will allow you all just to pick the person, and this community has nothing to do with it, then you’ve got a problem,” Kimber, minister of Newhallville’s First Calvary Baptist Church, said to whoops from the audience.

 

Then Kimber took a dig at board member Ed Joyner, a critic of his failed charter-school quest, for planning to speak at a community forum in Bridgeport on Wednesday about how to boost achievement for young black males. Kimber noted a quotation from Joyner in a Connecticut Post article on the subject: “I want to tell them this is a community wide responsibility, not just school. It requires work from educators, parents, community leaders and public institutions. Young men of color face barriers above and beyond most other groups. That is historical.” To Kimber, that sounded like an argument in favor of the boys’ charter school he’d wanted to open until Joyner and others raised questions about it.

Despite Dawson letting his iPhone timer ring, interrupting the reverend to say his time was up and then having his mic cut, Kimber kept talking. “Don’t cut my mic off on me. I can still talk: I’m a Baptist preacher.”

“Rev. Kimber, you cannot hijack this meeting,” Joyner, who was acting as president for the meeting, told him.

“I’m not hijacking it! You all have hijacked it!” he yelled back. “I will begin calling your names out, by not doing the job that you were chosen to do. You are very hypocritical for what you did to an all-boys’ school in this city.”

“You’re out of order,” muttered board member Frank Redente.

Kimber, who often speaks beyond the three-minute public time limit at board meetings, roared back, “Y’all been out of order since you’ve been up there!”

Dudes, Where Are My Tires?

After Kimber exited stage right, a litany of complaints about attendance reports, special education and school safety followed.

A social worker at Celentano School and parent, Nikkina Osei-Holden, blamed the school board for not taking a more proactive approach to school safety. Last Thursday, she said, she had left the school building to find her car resting on bricks, its tires stolen.

Maria Harris, the parent of a child with autism, criticized the district’s special education program. “Y’all do nothing at all, and your special education department sucks,” she said. “I’m so sick of it now. You guys are not doing the right things: violations. I’m beyond pissed off.”

Her voice rose as she continued, “Y’all waste so much money, it’s ridiculous. Stop giving increases to liaisons that don’t do nothing for the kids!” Harris now yelled. “Y’all should be ashamed of yourself. Nobody has accountability in this district, nobody from the top to the bottom. And y’all sitting up here rolling your eyes and sucking your teeth, setting examples.” The audience applauded as Harris walked back to her seat, shouting that the board is filled with politicians and lawyers, not educators.

Chrystal Augustine, another speaker, asked pointedly, “What is the purpose of the Board of Ed and your primary roles and functions? I really don’t want someone to direct me to an article or something that’s already pre-written. But someone that’s experienced on the board, explain that to me.”

She added that the board members should strive to be more ethical. “I think that you probably should have a code of conduct, and sometimes I don’t really see that,” she said, earning another round of applause.

At the end of the sign-up sheet, Hazel Pappas (pictured), who regularly speaks at meetings, offered a plea for civility.

“Let’s learn things before we’re ready to berate people,” the grandmother said. “We, as parents, need to make sure that we are doing the right thing to help the people that’s educating our children. Let’s not put all the blame on somebody else.

“If the adults are acting crazy, what do we think the kids are going to do? They’re going to be making it hard on teachers and everybody else, because they’ll be saying, ‘Oh, my mother will get them.’ Let’s not do that. Let’s work together!” Audience members around her murmured their assent.

One more audience member, H. Carl Moerschbacher, hadn’t put his name on the list. He raised his hand, requesting a turn to speak about the district’s security procedures, in the wake of an incident in which every student at Celentano had their backpack searched before entering the school.

Oh no, Dawson said. No more today.

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posted by: wendy1 on June 13, 2017  10:02am

Jim Crow never left and the South won.  For centuries, our downtrodden community has been cheated, shafted, and denied anything of value, be it land or education or jobs.  Even though DC is a mess and this is an All-American problem,  it is time to focus on big change to this city.  Unfortunately I dont feel Paca or Harp are capable.  Even cityhall needs an overhaul.  Maybe I should run for mayor.

Teachers and parents must band together to gain control of the weak schools and corrupt city spending if they care about their kids.  I gave directly to teachers and principals myself when I learned how broke the schools were.

posted by: Massimo on June 13, 2017  10:23am

They should not give Boise Kimber any credence.  Listen to him speak for 30 seconds, let alone three minutes, and you will understand fully the hilarity of him proposing to start his own school.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on June 13, 2017  2:00pm

@ Boise,

Don’t blame Ed Joyner for sabotaging your all boy’s school, blame yourself.  Ed Joyner to his credit, brought clarity to a rather ill-conceived idea that was doomed from its inception. 

We’re all in agreement with Boise that there are serious academic challenges as well as other issues germane to black youth nationwide.  That said, I applaud Boise for highlighting greater attention to the aforementioned plight.  However, other than merely mentioning it, I am yet to see an empirical approach emanating from him or his organization to help quell the problem. 

Ed is a school board member who is tasked with protecting the interest of the taxpayers by endorsing sound legislation, and above all; advocate on behalf of all students academically, regardless of ethnicity. 

If Boise is sincere about an all boy’s school for black youth, open one.

It’s apparent that Boise’s bullying tactics did not in no way rattle Mr. Joyner.  So as he too works arduously on behalf of the mayor to try and bring Ed down by conjuring up a fall guy as an opponent, voters who follow this Harp/Kimber circus are sharp enough to see through this quest to remove a board member that Harp cannot control.

posted by: Josiah Brown on June 13, 2017  5:30pm

I rarely attend Board of Education meetings but am a parent of kids in the NHPS and also a volunteer basketball coach of a youth team that (during winter) practices in one of the district’s schools and plays games in another of them.

Accountability and even criticism are to be expected when people venture into the public arena as BOE members do.  That said, the harsh tone and ad hominem aspect of the criticism – as depicted in this article – are unfortunate, and likely counterproductive.

Neighbors, let’s remember that the BOE members – whether elected or appointed – are volunteers who devote considerable time and attention to serving on the board.  They don’t demand deference but do deserve respect.

The call by Hazel Pappas for civility, for everyone to “work together,” sounds constructive.

Also, it seems more than a coincidence that she is pictured next to Florence Caldwell, a longtime parent and grandparent activist whom I’ve had occasion to meet and who has been recognized for her contributions to the New Haven community.  Such citizens offer examples to us all.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on June 13, 2017  7:11pm

Many don’t realize that the people who serve on the BOE are volunteers. They do not receive any compensation for the long hours they spend in public and executive session meetings & numerous committee meetings. People may not always agree with their decisions, but they should respect and honor these men and women for the amount of time and energy they devote to administering every aspect of our public school system. 
Most of them are sincere, dedicated public servants who are knowledgeable and experienced concerning educational policies, programs, school management, organization and curriculum, and endeavor to act in the best interests of the students.
No Board is above criticism, but many of the accusations hurled at these Board members were unfair, unwarranted and unnecessary. Most are not hypocrites. They are not incompetent. They are not failures. Most are honest, ethical people who have the best interests of the students at heart. Only one is a politician. And paid.
If New Haven wants to drive away intelligent, independent-thinking, experienced New Haven residents from ever serving on the Board of Education in the future, just have a few more meetings like this one, and what you will wind up with is a Board that will not direct this school district, but will take directions from the mayor and their employee, the superintendent.
A few do prefer to have things that way, but a puppet board will never operate transparently for the best interests of the students.
New Haveners heard two voices at this meeting. The voice of wisdom spoke when Hazel Pappas called for civility, unity and focus. The voice of foolishness spoke when Boise the Baptist Bully opened his mouth spewing forth personal attacks, disrespect for rules and authority,  and division, unbecoming of a minister or any other person. We need to heed Pappas’ great wisdom & reject Kimber’s divisive grandstanding in order to move forward to meet the great challenges which lie ahead for our public schools.

posted by: CTLifer on June 13, 2017  9:37pm

I have to give sincere kudos to those who spoke out against the Board to their faces.  It is easy for us to criticize here or on other New Haven websites, but these folks stood up for their children s rights and asked the questions people have wanted the answer to for years. Rev. Kimber, in my honest opinion, should not have been given more than 30 seconds for his rant about how inner city boys need his school.  Harp should have followed Torres lead and put her phone down.  These are the voices of the parents who are involved.  There is non-stop attacks on non-participating parents, and the response to those who care is to ignore them, or attack them?  Shame on Kimber and Harp.  Parents-get to these meetings and let your voice be heard!!!  If attacked, stand your ground.  I am so proud of the parents who participated in this!!!!

posted by: beyonddiscussion on June 13, 2017  10:45pm

The number one way we educate our kids is by the example we set. Believe me they notice the discord around the Board of Education and in City Hall. They see how those in leadership positions fight each other and they see how the “adults” at these meetings act out. The anger and dysfunction of these Board of Ed tempests have a big impact on what’s happening in our classrooms and on our streets.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 17, 2017  3:05am

Wendy1,

If you feel strongly about running for public office, you should run for alder in your Ward.
Change doesn’t happen without choice….

posted by: HillNorth on June 20, 2017  9:10pm

Mr. Paine, With all due respect. If the Board members are not up to criticism as you said, they are volunteers and they can voluntarily leave. The Mayor has given one of them an unauthorized enormous salary bump for something that really should be part time if that, there is one who is not a volunteer. To say that criticism somehow will prevent others from volunteering is exactly what union busters used to say. It is simply not true. The people on the board are often NOT the loving, caring, good people you think they are and they serve for many motives and have many agendas. There is at least one of them who has had a brush with the law as well so let’s not act as though these people were close to deity status. Even though they don’t believe it, they are just people, no more no less.